When you experience anxiety, it can feel like there’s no way out. But in reality, anxiety is usually a signal that your mind and body are trying to tell you something. In fact, scientists have learned more about the reasons people experience anxiety in the last 20 years than they did in the previous 200. As a result, we now know that many of the common beliefs about this mental illness are just myths.
You don’t need to be born with anxiety or have a specific type of personality to develop it; anyone can get anxious. Here are 7 common misconceptions about anxiety and why they aren’t true:
1. Everyone knows exactly what causes anxiety.
No one really knows exactly what causes anxiety. We know it’s likely to be related to a combination of factors, but each person’s experience and cause for anxiety is different. People who experience anxiety may be born with a chemical imbalance or have an adverse reaction to certain medications or substances. They may have a past event that triggers anxiety or have a medical condition that impacts the brain and triggers anxiety. In addition, anxiety often has multiple causes because it can be triggered by more than one issue. This means that the best way to treat anxiety is to figure out what’s causing it in each person and treat those specific issues.
2. People with Social Anxiety are just shy
Shyness is a personality trait, whereas social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a disorder. While shyness may be uncomfortable, SAD can be debilitating. Shy people may find it difficult to talk to strangers or to be the center of attention. SAD is characterized by the fear of being watched, judged, or humiliated, and it may cause them to avoid social situations for months. Although someone with SAD may be unable to shop for food if a cashier asks them a question they can’t answer, it’s easy to see how SAD can make it difficult to function. SAD may also cause heightened fear responses such as body stiffness, making their minds ‘go blank,’ and jittery hands, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. When people with SAD receive therapy, 70% have improved outcomes.
3. Anxiety is a sign of weakness or a character flaw.
Not at all. Anxiety is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that activates an “alarm” response in the body. This alarm is meant to protect you from harm, but unfortunately, it causes discomfort in addition to keeping you safe. One reason people feel anxious is that their senses are heightened and they are more aware of sensations like hearing and sight. This can be helpful in some situations but overwhelming in others. People with anxiety may also have a hard time controlling their impulses due to changes in their ability to regulate emotions. This can lead to behaviors like crying or irritability that are different from what they usually would do in a given situation.
4. Anxious People should “snap out of it”
YOu’d be crazy to think that someone with cancer or diabetes can simply “snap out of”. Although it is okay to put anxious feelings aside temporarily in order to complete a difficult task, denying or surpressing them is not a long-term solution—doing so can lead to substance abuse, chronic health conditions, dysfunctional relationships, and insomnia, among other issues, she says. It is necessary to accept your anxiety, feel your emotions, and learn how to deal with them in order to feel better. Calmness techniques like exercise, journaling, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can all help you challenge your reactions and fears and locate healthier, more positive ways to address them, she says.
5. The only way to get rid of anxiety is to feel happy.
Unfortunately, this is not true. Anxiety and happiness are different feelings: one is the sense of being alert and ready for action; the other is a mood that you can be in whether or not you’re in danger or have to do something challenging. Unfortunately, a lot of people with anxiety try to make themselves happy in order to feel better—but this is often an unhelpful strategy. People with anxiety are often better off trying to calm their anxiety, relax their bodies, and regulate their emotions. While this may not make them feel happy, it can help them feel less anxious and ready to take on the challenges of life.
6. Medication is the only effective treatment for anxiety.
While medication may be part of the treatment process, it isn’t the only effective approach. In fact, more and more research suggests that therapy is more effective than medication for treating anxiety. This is because anxiety is often a sign that something needs to be addressed, and even though most people feel better once they start taking medication it doesn’t address the source of the problem. When people are in therapy, they are given the tools to address their anxiety and the information they need to recognize and handle the issues that trigger their anxiety. This helps them feel better in the long run and is an approach that many people find more helpful in the long run.
7. Anxiety ALWAYS leads to depression.
Anxiety and depression are two very different mental illnesses that respond to different treatments. While anxiety can lead to depression in some cases, it’s also possible for depression to lead to anxiety. In fact, anxiety and depression can occur at the same time. In this case, it’s important to seek help from a professional, because treating one illness without the other can make both disorders worse. This is because many people with anxiety also have depression, and vice versa: they are two sides of the same coin. When people have depression and anxiety, they may feel hopeless and overwhelmed, have low self-esteem, and feel like they aren’t in control of their lives.
Anxiety Help in the Denver Area
Anxiety is a very common mental illness that affects millions of people around the world. Fortunately, it can be treated! There are a variety of strategies for managing anxiety and its symptoms, including anxiety therapy, stress management, and lifestyle changes. We’d be happy to help you!
We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with an anxiety specialist. You can schedule your appointment via phone, and read more on the Anxiety Page on our website.
Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.