There are a lot of myths about mental health issues in general. Since I suffer from an anxiety disorder, I’ve heard tons of myths about what having anxiety means, usually from people who are NOT experts and DO NOT personally suffer from an anxiety disorder themselves. Not only do these myths cause a lot of misunderstanding – some can even be dangerous, (especially when it comes to people who suffer from both anxiety & depression). Some of these myths prevent people who likely are unknowingly suffer from an anxiety disorder from seeking the help they need.
Myths exist on just about every topic out there. It’s important to know the real facts and not believe or perpetuate the myths, (which is worse). Since I have what I guess you would call “inside information”, since I actually am diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a lot of these myths are ones that I’ve personally heard from people over & over & over again.
If you or someone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, it’s highly probable that you’ve also heard a lot of these myths, some you may even still believe.
Here are some myths about anxiety disorders:
MYTH: People who have anxiety should simply avoid stressful situations.
Okay, so this myth is basically impossible. Stressful situations are literally part of life. To a person with anxiety, even small tasks can be stressful, (I’m talking small tasks that WE HAVE TO DO). For example, highways sometimes cause me a lot of anxiety – but what am I going to do? Avoid them the rest of my life? Not likely.
Avoidance, down the line, will only make things worse. Of course, it makes sense to avoid certain serious phobias, (spiders, heights, snakes – things that can realistically be avoided), but it is utterly impossible to avoid stress or stressful situations.
Avoiding so-called stressful situations would put a person suffering from an anxiety disorder in a “bubble” so to speak. It’s impossible and unhealthy as hell!
This myth is a very common one concerning anxiety and it perpetuates the idea that a person with an anxiety disorder cannot live a normal life – which is bullshit. Those suffering from anxiety disorders can absolutely live life to the fullest and learn healthy ways to help manage stressful situations. Avoidance is NOT healthy.
MYTH: Anxiety Disorders aren’t that common.
Actually, nearly 20% of adults in America suffer from some form an anxiety disorder.
When I was diagnosed, I too thought it wasn’t common to have an anxiety disorder. I thought I was in a rare category of people and that my life was basically going to be some terrible mess after that diagnosis. That thought was due to the stigma that surrounds anxiety disorders. I didn’t realize how NOT alone I was.
It’s odd thinking back now, after all the people I’ve met with similar issues, how awful & alone I felt, when in reality, SO MANY people were dealing with nearly the exact same situation & feelings.
There are also many different types of anxiety disorders, most of which aren’t rare at all. I’m talking almost 1 in 5 individuals in the U.S alone!
So, anxiety disorders are quite common. If you or someone you know suffer from one – you are most definitely not alone.
MYTH: People with anxiety are just overreacting and could easily “snap out of it.”
Well shit…like I hadn’t tried every damn thing possible to “snap out of it.” If I could simply snap out of it, it wouldn’t be an anxiety disorder. Do you think people with anxiety disorders want to feel the way they do? HELL NO.
This is probably the #1 misconception about anxiety disorders. It’s this odd belief that people who suffer from an anxiety disorder can somehow flip a switch in their mind and suddenly be cured! (If only!)
We’re not wizards, my dude. Seriously, it’s an actual illness that can’t be controlled like a ceiling fan. We can’t wave a wand and change it – or believe me – every single person who has an anxiety disorder would absolutely do it if they could.
We can create coping mechanisms but snapping out of it is not possible.
MYTH: Anxiety will pass over time.
This is a dangerous myth and one that most of us who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder told ourselves before seeking treatment. There is this belief out there that over time, the anxiety will completely vanish. POOF! Gone!
The saying “time heals everything” doesn’t apply here. I’m not talking about temporary anxiety that happens to probably everyone at some time in their life, (stress over money, work or so on). I’m talking about real anxiety disorders. They will not pass over time. Waiting to seek treatment can cause a whole slew of other mental health issues.
As much as I wish it weren’t the case, anxiety disorders do not go away if you “wait it out.” For me, it worsened. This idea is a total myth and really a pipe dream for those of us with anxiety disorders.
MYTH: Anxiety is just stress and overthinking.
Well, this one is partially true because two huge components of anxiety are overthinking & stress. However, there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that.
The belief that an anxiety disorder is nothing more than these 2 things is a huge myth that still lingers among those who know little about the disorders. Here are just SOME of the other components of anxiety that go far beyond stress & overthinking:
- Decreased Focus for extended periods of time
- Perpetual Worry & Fear
- Physical symptoms that can include, but aren’t limited to: excessive sweating, trouble breathing & hyperventilation, heart palpitations, excessive trembling, restlessness and fatigue.
- Racing, uncontrollable thoughts that can be repetitive and highly intrusive in everyday activities.
- An overwhelming feeling of impending doom (what I like to call “the constant stomach drop.“)
- Unexplained irritability.
- The need to always analyze every situation by “danger level.”
- An overall feeling of tenseness within the body
So, as you can see – anxiety has a lot more symptoms that come into play than simply stress & overthinking.
MYTH: Anxiety is caused from a bad ordeal.
In many cases, there isn’t a clear-cut reason for the presence of an anxiety disorder. A lot of people seem to confuse an anxiety disorder with PTSD, which usually is also accompanied by the presence of an anxiety disorder.
Causes of anxiety disorders are usually unknown, in most circumstances. They rarely have anything to do with trauma or a bad experience. They could – but it’s not typical. It’s a myth that every person with an anxiety disorder has encountered some kind of horrible trauma.
MYTH: It’s very easy to spot someone with an anxiety disorder.
WRONG! So, so wrong. It’s very easy to conceal the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and for the most part, a lot of us do this. I did and still do, likely due to the stigma attached to it.
Even if you read what I write about anxiety and living with an anxiety disorder, you wouldn’t be able to tell I have it when you meet me. It isn’t tattooed on my forehead and it isn’t something I put on display. (The same can be said of those suffering from depression).
I can carry on conversations and be completely socially normal. A lot of what I suffer with is very much on the inside and isn’t visible.
People who first meet me would have zero idea that I suffer from an anxiety disorder. It isn’t present in the way I behave or speak in front of others. It is very easy to conceal or show no signs of at all.
MYTH: Only anti-social people can suffer from anxiety.
Again, this is wrong. People who suffer from social anxiety disorders will have trouble being social and that is absolutely true. However, I believe that I’m an extremely social person. I go out. I hang out with friends often and actively put myself in social situations.
You could be having a perfectly normal conversation with me and will never realize that I have already counted every entrance and exit in the building we’re in. You’ll never know that I have been looking for signs of danger when there likely are none. I’m not anti-social, therefore, this is a total myth.
Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder, but it is not the only one.
MYTH: All anxiety disorders are basically the same thing.
Nope. Not true at all. Anxiety disorders take many forms, from many different people from all walks of life. Depending on an individual’s diagnosis, their anxiety disorder can be completely different from mine. Even a person with my identical diagnosis could react and behave totally different than me.
Anxiety disorders are not created equal. Just like we all have various responses to certain stimuli, we all respond differently to anxiety disorders.
Of course, there will be commonalities in many people but no, all anxiety disorders are NOT the same. There are lots of anxiety disorders as well as many different coping mechanisms that could work for one person and not another.
Just as individuals are different, anxiety disorders, and our individualized reactions are also different.
MYTH: There HAS to be a reason why you’re experiencing anxiety.
Just because a person with an anxiety disorder is having a period of extreme anxiety doesn’t have to have anything to do with their environment or a specific event.
Sometimes, it just comes out of nowhere. At least for me, I could be perfectly fine, even at home just watching TV then all of the sudden – I’m overwhelmed, I’m anxious and my breathing becomes difficult. Nothing happened, it’s just an increase in my anxiety.
The same goes with panic attacks. They can be triggered by something specific or by nothing at all. That’s what makes anxiety such a bitch – it’s totally unpredictable.
MYTH: Anxiety isn’t a “real” illness.
Okay, if you STILL believe this, there is no point in parading out any scientific evidence or studies.
Maybe you’re one of those people who think the earth is flat too? Or, that climate change is just make-believe?
Eh – it’s a REAL illness and I hope you never have to deal with it, even if you are an asshole about it 🙂
Myths Add to the Stigma of Anxiety Disorders:
There is a huge stigma that surrounds anxiety disorders and most other mental health issues. It’s likely not going to change overnight but with more people diagnosed each day, the facts are becoming harder and harder to ignore.
Living with an anxiety disorder does not make you weak, nor does it mean you cannot live a full, amazing life. It’s important to debunk these myths and educate those around you about what an anxiety disorder actually is, (especially if you live with one).
Are there any other common myths about anxiety disorders that you’ve heard about? Let me know in the comments!
I hope these myths will fade away so people can really grasp – not pity – but grasp – what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. To everyone out there living with an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t have to define you 🙂 Make sure you’re not falling victim to these myths. Educate yourself about your specific anxiety disorder. Facts are friends, people 🙂
Much Love <3
Very informative! 😘
Thank you <3
I love your candidness in this post and how well you break down why each of these myths are utter bunk.
For the longest time, I didn’t believe I had anxiety because most of my symptoms manifest as muscle tension, headaches, upset stomach, extreme irritability, and heart palpitations. If I had known more about what anxiety actually was, I might have been able to start treating it sooner.
These myths definitely need to go away!
Thank you Mykki! Most of us didn’t seek treatment initially because of these myths so it’s so important they’re debunked! Hopefully as more information is passed around, these myths will finally be put to a stop. I wish you all the best in coping with your anxiety 🙂
Not only is the idea that people with anxiety should avoid the things that make them anxious a myth, it’s the exact opposite of the most effective treatment for anxiety. People with anxiety need to be able to face what makes them anxious in a controlled and supportive way so they can face and overcome their anxiety.
Lots of good info here! I like how you add fact with your own personal experiences. I have anxiety and definitely relate to the overthinking. It took me a long time to just accept it and take some anxiety medication when I need it. It made a difference for me. I love you are getting the word out and breaking down myths. I really hate mental health stigma. It’s such a problem.
Teri – http://Millennialadulting.life
Thanks Teri! I also take medication and it has made a huge difference. The mental health stigmas are so problematic for people! I hope a lot of these myths disappear in the future so people will be more likely to seek help when they need it.
Thank you for addressing these myths, I sometimes doubt myself and worry that I am overreacting or should just get a grip, but it is a real problem that is so difficult to deal with- if only more people realised the difficulties!
Thanks for commenting Ellie! It is hard to deal with and the myths make it so much worse. I hope awareness about anxiety disorders becomes more mainstream so people can understand 🙂
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Thank you Micah! I didn’t even know those sort of contests existed.
Oh man, I hate the whole “anxiety is something you choose” attitude where people just say you can snap out of it, or to think about it differently or “calm down”! It’s not that simple, or people would do it. I’m not sure if I have anxiety, as I’ve never been to the doctor’s about it, but I definitely get horribly anxious about a variety of different things and it can make me feel agitated and depressed, and lead to physical symptoms like headaches, excessive tiredness or insomnia. It’s horrible, and I try really hard to snap out of it, but it’s not possible. So I can only imagine how someone with severe anxiety would feel, and respect them for still getting on with everything – let’s just hope that awareness grows and anxiety doesn’t! Great post 🙂
I hate the “anxiety is a choice” attitude also! It’s surprising how many people truly believe we can just “snap out it.” If you’re experiencing those symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about it :). It took me a long time to seek help, but since I have, I feel SO much better! Thanks for commenting Rhianna 🙂
This was such an informative and well-written post! I related so much to when you said that most of your anxiety isn’t visible on the outside to people. That just shows how important it is to realize that you never really know what someone is going through mentally. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thanks, Melissa 🙂 You really don’t know what someone is battling internally.
Excellent post. As a psychologist I have seen what stigma can do to someone who is already struggling. There are so many illogical myths surronding mental health issues. It makes the therapy so much harder. Understanding is becoming rarer.
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My anxiety stems from many roots in the ground; namely,
1) the need to be “near perfect,” as was expected from me since childhood.
2) wars and military conflicts that marred my life from childhood to adulthood, which the world refuses to relieve me from them. And..
3) people and the situations they created that continue demanding so much at the expense of my goals and aspirations.
I take solace from my insistence to understand it and the brilliance, which allowed me to combat and manage this horrible disease that has no cure.