There’s a lot of information about anxiety out there, which makes perfect sense, considering that 40 million U.S. adults cope with an anxiety disorder. And 75% of them experience their first anxiety episode by age 22. While knowledge is power and widespread information about anxiety is definitely a good thing, it’s also important to remember that this always leaves room for myths like the following…
1. Myth: Anxiety is just another form of worrying.
Yes, some worries come and go – but anxiety is not one of them. According to the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, having pathological anxiety is an illness, one that will cause someone to worry for long periods of time about matters that may seem trivial to others. In other words: Worrying is temporary, while an anxiety disorder is not.
2. Myth: Anxiety medications are all addictive, so you should NOT take them.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reveals that first-line medications for anxiety disorders are not addictive. This includes Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). As for Benzodiazepines, they are often used for short-term treatment because they can be addictive. To learn more about which drugs are addictive and which might be best for you (while consulting a professional, of course), you can visit this link for more information.
3. Myth: Anxiety disorders are not common.
To put it simply: 40 million American adults between the ages of 18 to 54 cope with an anxiety disorder. This number alone demonstrates that such disorders are pretty common and those coping with one are definitely not alone.
4. Myth: You’ll probably faint during a panic attack.
Since fainting is caused by a drop in blood pressure, it’s unlikely one will faint during a panic attack. That’s because panic attacks generally cause blood pressure to rise slightly. Also, it’s important to remember that thinking you’re losing control does not mean that you will actually lose control.
5. Myth: Medication is the only way to treat an anxiety disorder.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication for a mental illness (like one would for any other illness), medication isn’t for everyone. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American explains that, based on scientific research, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proved to be just as or more effective when compared with medication (or a combo of medication and CBT). But we do stress that all bodies and brains are different – what might work for you may not work for someone else.
6. Myth: You should avoid stressful situations or your fears if you cope with anxiety.
Psychologist Dr. Greg Hajcak told Everyday Health that avoiding one’s fears and stressors can actually reinforce an anxiety disorder. Essentially, such behavior will cause one to view themselves as fragile, which will in turn lead them to have anxiety about their anxiety disorder.
That said, if you really feel uncomfortable in a situation, don’t feel bad if you need to take a few minutes for yourself, or take breaks to recollect yourself. Do what feels right for you.
7. Myth: Those with anxiety are weak.
Anxiety is, under no circumstances, a synonym for weakness. “Many people think that having this disorder means that they’re fearful or weak — and that’s certainly not the case,” Joseph Bienvenu (an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University) told The Huffington Post. He added that while fear is a component of anxiety, it should not be used to define the entire spectrum of anxiety disorders.
8. Myth: Therapy must focus on childhood issues in order for your anxiety to be suppressed.
“It’s not that having a difficult childhood is completely unrelated, but having a difficult childhood can be related to all kinds of things, not just anxiety,” Dr. Bienvenu explained. “Some people have great childhoods and still have anxiety.”
Though your anxiety disorder may have put down some roots in your childhood, that doesn’t mean you constantly have to look back at the past during treatment. Instead, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, research demonstrates that effective therapy focuses on the present and allows one to learn techniques to deal with their symptoms in the moment.
9. Myth: Your anxiety will go away if you have a healthy lifestyle.
While a healthy lifestyle may make you physically feel better and help to rid you of some of your anxiety, it’s not a cure for an anxiety disorder. “Anxiety disorders are certainly sensitive to stress, but stress does not cause them,” states the ADAA, which is exactly why one would need to implement other techniques for dealing with their anxiety.
“Many people believe that anxiety isn’t something worth assessing,” explains Allison Baker (a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the director of the adolescent program for Columbia University Medical Center). “But it’s important treat anxiety, especially in children and teens. If untreated, it can be associated with an increased risk with depression.”