(Health Secrets) Anxiety is a widespread condition that continues to be misunderstood by those who have trouble distinguishing between anxiety as an emotional state and anxiety as a disorder. Help spread the truth about anxiety by learning the facts behind these prevalent and harmful anxiety myths.
• Confidence is the Cure – Contrary to popular belief, having an anxiety disorder does not simply mean that you are shy and “need to be more confident,” or “stop caring so much what people think.” These pieces of advice are obvious, insulting and frustrating for people who suffer from anxiety to hear, because if they could do those things, they obviously would, and not being able to is likely a source of embarrassment and stress. They may not understand, along with their advisors, that their mental processes and the chemical composition of their bodies are preventing them from doing so. It is an alteration of these factors, and not a simple act of will or decision to “be confident,” that will actually be useful in reducing a person’s anxiety.
• You Just Need a Vacation – While it might well be the case that you do need a vacation, taking a little time away from the stresses of your daily life only to come right back to them is not going to have a long term effect on how your mind and body process stressful stimuli. Making significant lifestyle changes that promote health and relaxation, talking to a mental health professional on a regular basis and seeking treatment for problems that persist despite these measures are all more important in the long term than a vacation, which only helps you feel better in the short term (if it helps you at all).
• Anxiety Shows Weakness of Character – Persistent anxiety can make you feel out of control and powerless, and others may assume that the symptoms of your anxiety are signs of a flawed character. Be sure that you don’t make this same mistake. Anxiety is a result of unproductive thought patterns in the brain that can be caused by anything from past trauma to beliefs you formed as a child to the difficulties of coping with a stressful environment on a daily basis, and the chemical makeup of your body, which can be altered by the same things (among others). People naturally form beliefs and reactions based on their environment, and the body naturally alters its composition in response. It is not a conscious choice, and therefore does not reflect weakness of character.
• Getting Help Means You’re Lazy (or Crazy) – Many people are trained to think that needing help is only for people who are lazy, or that mental help is only for people who are out of their minds and entirely unable to function normally. Both these assumptions are false in the case of anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety often have chemical imbalances in their bodies that simply cannot be regained through will alone. Furthermore, most people with anxiety disorders are entirely capable of clear thinking and seem to be able to function quite normally, but go through unnecessary psychological trauma or avoid some situations that they shouldn’t have to avoid because they refuse to get the help they need for fear of being labeled as “crazy.” If you really are mentally sound, getting help for your anxiety is actually one of the sanest things you can do.
• Treatment Will Change Who You Are – Identifying with an anxiety disorder is a mistake many people make, and a convenient excuse for people who are afraid to or don’t believe they can change because they have never been able to up to this point. It is important to realize that you are not your disorder, and that you should not be defined by the limitations it imposes on you.
Knowing that these myths are false and can actually keep an anxious person from altering his or her lifestyle is a good reason to make sure that you aren’t behaving as though they are true. Help other people realize that they need to update their perspectives on what it means to have anxiety.