10 Myths about anxiety

10 Myths about anxiety

Anxiety disorder is a disruptive illness of which you can read a lot, especially on the internet. Well meaning friends and family members may try to “support” you with their ideas on what causes anxiety and how best to treat it. The problem with anxiety is that it does not always have one specific clearly understood cause, and that can make it very difficult to treat. Unfortunately many myths have surfaced over the years with regards to anxiety making it hard for you to know who and what to believe.

Myth #1

You should suppress your thoughts by snapping a rubber band against your wrist every time you feel an anxiety attack approaching.

Truth

Recently studies have proven that the more you try and resist your thoughts the stronger they become. It may sound like the best and most obvious solution to your problem but in the long run you will make it progressively harder for yourself to overcome anxiety.

Myth #2

You can lose consciousness from a severe panic attack.

Truth

Even though it may indeed feel like you are about to pass out and not many of us can think of something more embarrassing than that, the chances of you fainting are really small. A drop in blood pressure causes you to faint and during an anxiety attack your blood pressure actually rises.

Myth #3

It is best to avoid stressful places or situations if you suffer from anxiety disorder.

Truth

There is that avoidance game again and it is clear to see that this approach will keep you a captive of your anxiety and not help you to overcome it. Do not allow anxiety to limit your freedom of going where you want to and doing as you please. Trying to avoid anxiety will have the opposite outcome in that it will only reinforce it.

Myth #4

You should have a paper bag with you at all times for in case you hyperventilate during an anxiety attack.

Truth

Having to remember to carry a paper bag with you at all times will only focus your mind more and more on your anxiety disorder and probably fuel your fear of the next attack. It is understandable that hyperventilation is not only an uncomfortable but also an embarrassing experience especially if you are with people during an attack, but hyperventilation can’t kill you and the paper bag will only be a constant reminder of your anxious thoughts.

Myth #5

Anxiety is always caused by a traumatic event in your childhood, so treatment should address that one aspect of your life.

Truth

It is now commonly accepted that anxiety is caused by both your biological make up and your environmental influences. The biological processes of your body that may cause you to suffer from anxiety are your brain chemistry, especially the balance of serotonin, nor adrenaline and GABA, your family history and your current medical condition. Environmental factors that may trigger the development of anxiety are previous trauma or abuse, not necessarily only limited to your childhood years and leading a stressful lifestyle.

Myth #6

Anxiety medication is addictive so you should avoid taking any unless absolutely necessary.

Truth

If your anxiety is caused by an imbalance in your brain’s hormones the best way of restoring that balance may be through the use of anti-depressants, especially if you want results fast. The medication most commonly used for anxiety disorders is SSRI and SNRI antidepressants and these are not addictive. Other medication such as benzodiazepines only help over the short term and these may be habit forming.

Myth #7

Anxiety disorder can only be treated with strong medication.

Truth

Medication does have a place in some people with anxiety disorders but recent studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT may be even more effective in treating anxiety disorders than medication. This appears to be especially true over the long run.

Myth #8

If you have the type of personality that worries about everything there isn’t much that you can do about it.

Truth

You always have the capacity to change the way you think and feel about certain places, people or situations. You don’t have to be or remain a victim of your anxiety. With therapy you can change the way you view circumstances or people.

Myth #9

A healthy lifestyle consisting of a good diet and regular exercise will solve your anxiety permanently.

Truth

Reducing your stress levels are always a good idea, but stress are just one of many causes that lead to anxiety. You may need to learn new habits and change your perceptions in order to lead a life free from anxiety.

Myth #10

If your family and friends constantly support you and help you to avoid stressful situations your anxiety will improve.

Truth

While it is true that well meaning friends and family may try and steer you clear from potentially “dangerous” situations, they may aid you in avoiding your anxiety. Instead you need a support system that will guide you through the process of facing your fears and overcoming it, rather than helping you to hide from it in which case you will always be its slave.

References:

“”Myth-Conceptions,” or Common Fabrications, Fibs, and Folklore About Anxiety.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. [No date]. ADAA.org (October 9, 2012). http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/myth-conceptions

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