Common Myths About Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Common Myths About Anxiety: What You Need to Know

It is normal to feel anxious sometimes. In fact, anxiety can be adaptive in some situations. The physiological symptoms that we experience when we are anxious alert our bodies to danger so that we can act on it.

What is the difference between feeling anxious sometimes and having an anxiety disorder? We are writing this blog to share the warning signs and dispel some of the myths surrounding anxiety.

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Before we begin, we invite you to think back to your last major deadline. As you approached the due date, you probably felt more nervous and were thinking about how (and if) you'd be able to finish the task. For some, this adrenaline rush arouses us and allows us to focus on and complete the task at hand. For others, this experience is threatening and overwhelming, leading us to miss a deadline or underperform.

This is just one example of the difference between how anxiety can help, and when it can create difficulties. Read on to learn more about the myths about anxiety, what anxiety is, and what it isn't.

Most people feel comfortable calling the doctor when they're concerned about their physical health, yet many people hesitate to do the same for their mental health. We should care for our minds the way we care for our bodies. Sometimes we need a professional to help us learn to care for and nurture ourselves. Our minds are no different. In just a short time, there can be a noticeable change. 

The effects of an anxiety disorder can vary. It can be the normal every day uneasiness we feel in our stomach. It can also escalate to cause muscle tension, sweaty palms, and abnormal sleep patterns.

Myth # 1: Anxiety Is Not a Real Illness

Anxiety is part of our healthy development in normal occurrences. It serves us in the most primal instincts for survival. It can sharpen our senses and keep us extremely focused on a task. While some anxiety is totally normal, even adaptive, there is such thing as an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in the world. Worldwide, 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety.

A disorder occurs when anxiety levels are so high that they affect your day-to-day life and your health. It can be constant worry or fear of being judged. It can be sudden panic attacks and irrational fears. It can come with unrelenting fear of losing something you need or constant worrying about your health.

Researchers are also finding that anxiety disorders can be inherited. So just as diabetes or allergies can be found in families, so can anxiety disorders. The three main contributors to anxiety are a person's biology (such as their genes, brain structure, or brain activity), psychology (such as the experience of stress or trauma), and society/culture (what is considered normal vs. abnormal in their environment)

Myth # 2: Anxiety Attacks Will Cause You to Faint

Anxiety can increase blood pressure and breathing. Fainting is usually a result of lowered blood pressure, which is essentially the opposite.

During an anxiety attack, you can feel dizzy and have shortness of breath and an elevated pulse rate. You might feel like you're fainting because of these symptoms, but fainting is extremely unlikely.

Myth # 3: Medication Is the Only Treatment for Anxiety

Medication can be very helpful in some cases. But medicine only helps to manage the symptoms of anxiety.

An effective plan to reduce anxiety can also include psychotherapy. There are very effective evidence-based treatment options available, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, which we offer at Thrive.

Working with a mental health professional can result in better long-term success. They will join you in your fight against anxiety. Even if the thought of meeting a therapist causes anxiety, it is worth pushing through it.

Your first sessions, known as your initial assessment, will formulate what the problem is and identify your goals, as well as a plan for working towards achieving them.

Myth # 4: Alcohol Will Cure Anxiety

Attempting to manage anxiety with alcohol or other drugs does not give good results. This will just help a person avoid the real issues behind the anxiety.

While you could relieve your symptoms for the short-term, you could also end up with an addiction after sustained use. Addictions can form quickly, so it is best not to see substance abuse as a cure for anxiety.

Smoking, drinking, and taking other drugs will also lead to many other health problems.

Myth # 5: Paper Bags Will Help You If You Hyperventilate

Hyperventilating in itself won't generally harm you. Yes, it can be unpleasant, but it isn't dangerous. Having a paper bag on you at all times could ease your mind if you are concerned about hyperventilating, but is not necessary.

These "safety behaviours", like carrying a bag or constantly washing your hands, do help for short-term relief. However, these coping methods will not address the root of a person's anxiety.

Myth # 6: Anxiety Will Resolve Itself

Some people can learn to deal with their anxiety on their own. For others, their attempts can leave them with hidden tension. This can have lasting effects if left unresolved.

Having the support from a professional can help a person learn healthy coping strategies to deal with anxiety. Many people wait for years before seeking help.

People can wait for their symptoms to disappear on their own, but this is not often the case. Those who suffer from anxiety need to learn how to identify and change the thoughts that cause anxiety.

Myth # 7: You Can See When Someone Has Anxiety

Not everyone has debilitating anxiety. In fact, most people can function just fine with no detection at all. People can carry on conversations, play catch, go to the grocery store, and do any other normal activity.

However, some behaviours will draw attention to an anxiety problem. Behaviours like:

  • Routinely avoiding others or certain things or places

  • Withdrawing from social occasions

  • Fidgeting or restlessness

  • Trembling or sweating

  • Irritability

These are the most common behaviours, and there are many more.

Myth # 8: Therapy Should Target the Cause of the Anxiety Disorder

This is partly true. It is important to understand any underlying causes of anxiety.

However, the majority of therapy is focused on managing the thoughts and emotions that cause anxiety. Clients can learn to identify the thoughts that trigger worry and uneasiness.

Once a person knows the root of their anxiety, they can use the tools and methods they learned to process and cope better.

Myth # 9: You Have to Wait a Long Time to See Results from Therapy

Clients can often notice an improvement in their anxiety symptoms after only a few sessions. We often propose short-term, evidence-based treatment. In these sessions, clients learn to identify their triggers and use strategies to cope with them.

Myth # 10: Less Stress Will Cure Anxiety

Less stress will lead to a healthier life, true. Anxiety disorders, however, are not a result of stress. In fact, anxiety and worry can actually cause stress.

General anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent and excessive worry. A person will need to discover the cognitive root of their worries to begin to ease their anxiety.

A stress-free environment is key when taking the time to understand the root cause for anxiety. It also helps to incorporate behaviours that alleviate stress.

These Are All Myths about Anxiety: Learn the Facts

These myths about anxiety shouldn't keep anyone from a healthy life with peace of mind. Maybe you've heard sayings like, "just get over it," or, "you need to relax more." These are a few things people can say when they don't quite have all the facts about anxiety.

Sadly, these myths cause many anxiety disorders to go untreated. People either feel they should deal with it alone, or are afraid to seek help. But with the real facts in hand, you can make the right decision.

If you are someone you know is suffering from anxiety, reach out for help. We have a wonderful team of warm and empathetic professionals who are ready to help.

 

Sarah Rasmi