Do you have racing thoughts, trouble concentrating, and a general, persistent feeling that you’re on edge, and nothing can help you calm down? If so, it’s possible you may have an anxiety disorder—and that you might benefit from talking to a healthcare provider about what’s going on. But that’s easier said than done, right?
Stigma around mental health conditions—including anxiety—can be a major barrier to seeking support, particularly when it comes from the person affected. We get it: It’s not easy to admit to yourself that you’re struggling, let alone open up to someone else about it. The problem is, myths about anxiety can stand in the way of treatments that can help you feel better. So, whether you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms for the first time or you’re struggling to come to terms with a diagnosis you already have, it’s worth considering your own mindset around anxiety disorders.
Below, you’ll find 11 common myths about anxiety you should stop believing.
Myth #1: Anxiety is embarrassing because you alone have it
Anxiety disorders are more prevalent than you probably think. They affect a staggering 40 million American adults each year. Understanding just how many people’s lives are affected by anxiety can help you cope with yours—and destigmatize seeking help.
Myth #2: Anxiety isn’t an actual illness
You may not be able to diagnose anxiety with a blood test or X-ray, but abundant evidence has found that, like other mental and even physical conditions, anxiety disorders are diagnosable medical illnesses. The good news is that they are also manageable with tools like psychotherapy and medication.
Myth #3: Anxiety is just a phase
Stressful circumstances can definitely contribute to your racing thoughts and fast heartbeat, but if your anxiety symptoms outlast the difficulties you face, it’s possible you have an anxiety disorder that could benefit from medical treatment. Anxiety disorders can produce an ebb and flow of symptoms, so it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to identify a treatment that can help you remain symptom free and function in your everyday routines.
Myth #4: Lifestyle changes can cure anxiety disorders
Doctors often recommend lifestyle shifts, like getting more exercise and eating a nutritious diet, to improve patients’ overall health—and there’s evidence that these practices can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. But a workout regimen and a special diet may not be enough to stave off someone’s anxiety symptoms. Needing more than food and exercise can provide doesn’t make you weaker. If you’re struggling with ongoing anxiety that’s interfering with your everyday life, a medical provider can help you figure out other ways to feel better (like medication and therapy).
Myth #5: Anxiety and panic attacks are dangerous
When you’re on edge or panicky, you might feel like you’re about to faint, have a heart attack or, worse, die. The physical sensation of anxiety can feel overwhelming, but luckily, it’s temporary and not dangerous. Having the right tools to cope with anxiety and panic attacks—whether that is support from loved ones, exercises from a therapist, or mental health medication—is one way to empower yourself in those moments.
Myth #6: Anxiety is just part of life
While an in-the-moment panic attack isn’t likely to harm you, anxiety—if left untreated—can pose risks to your mental and physical health alike. On top of interfering with activities that help to keep you healthy, like sleeping, exercising, eating well, and spending time with friends and family, anxiety can also result in physical symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, and muscle pain. Chronic stress (even in the form of anxiety) has also been shown to increase people’s chances of developing a chronic illness, including heart disease. Bottom line: While it’s common to experience anxiety, you deserve the care you need to overcome your symptoms.
Myth #7: Anxiety is just worrying
Persistent worrying and racing thoughts are part of the diagnostic criteria for anxiety, but there are several types of anxiety disorders that can affect people’s lives in other ways. For example, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and panic disorder are all types of anxiety disorders. Mental health providers, like the psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners at Minded, are experts at helping you identify what condition is contributing to your anxiety, and finding a solution to help you feel more like yourself.
Myth #8: Anxiety is impossible to treat
Perhaps the hardest part about treating anxiety is taking the first step, seeing a health care provider. Once you ask for professional help, you’ll be surprised by the number of options available to treat your condition. Along with psychotherapy, there are many anxiety medications shown to minimize anxiety symptoms, and you and your healthcare provider can figure out which one is appropriate for you.
Myth #9: Self-medicating can help anxiety go away
Smoking, drinking a couple glasses of wine, using cannabis, or even zoning out on Netflix might make you feel calmer in the short-term. But these forms of “self-medicating” are not an effective or safe long-term solution for mitigating anxiety. In fact, substance use (of alcohol and drugs) can actually make mental health conditions worse—including anxiety.
Myth #10: People with anxiety should just avoid things that make them anxious
Whether you get anxious about big group gatherings or you have a specific phobia, you may be tempted to avoid the situations that make you feel worse. While that’s understandable, avoidance can reinforce your anxiety and prevent you from doing things you want and need to do, which may make you feel worse and more anxious over time. Getting the care you need for anxiety can help you re-engage with life in a more rewarding way, even if it feels scary right now.
Myth #11: Getting anxiety medication is a hassle
Navigating the healthcare system can feel (and often is) overwhelming, which can temporarily worsen your anxiety. If you can’t get an appointment with a psychiatrist or you’re nervous about broaching the topic of mental health with your family doctor, you’re not out of options. At Minded, we believe evidence-based anxiety treatments should be accessible for everyone. We offer video appointments with board-certified psychiatric providers for just $65/month. Join today and get your first month for $10.