Myths about anxiety

September 17, 2021
Asifa Rapaiee

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Anxiety is a common mental health problem which affects around 1 in 6 adults in the UK. While it is a normal human emotion to feel anxious in some aspects of life, for example starting a new job, meeting new people or making a public speech, if your anxiety related symptoms are extreme, last for a prolonged period of time or affect your everyday daily life then you may suffer from an anxiety disorder.

There are many types of anxiety disorders and each one affects each individual differently. However, despite anxiety being one of the most common mental illnesses, there are a lot of myths surrounding what it actually means to have anxiety.

Anxiety is just being shy

Anxiety and shyness are two different things. Being shy is a personality trait that someone may have, they may be shy around new people and new situations but this soon lessons when the individual becomes more comfortable with these situations. Anxiety Disorder is a recognised mental illness which people are diagnosed with after experiencing symptoms for an extended length of time and they are affecting your daily life in a negative way. Symptoms could stop you from partaking in everyday activities such as going to to work, a shop or any public setting. They can also break down relationships with those around you.

It is important to understand that anxiety and shyness are different as some people may be suffering from an anxiety disorder but will not get help as they believe they must just be shy. Therefore this misconception could possibly stop people from seeking help for their disorder.

Anxiety can not hurt you

While anxiety is a mental health condition, but as with many mental health conditions, some of the symptoms may have physical effects on the body. Some of the physical symptoms that are associated with anxiety include breathing difficulties, headaches, shaking, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, sweating, chest pains, heart palpitations and fainting. People with anxiety may experience many of these symptoms on a regular basis and to varying degrees.

Everyone experiences anxiety the same

Like every mental health problem anxiety is individualistic. Anyone can suffer from an anxiety disorder and everyone will have different experiences with it. Individuals may have different symptoms but still suffer from the same illness, and likewise, one person may have a symptom such as nausea worse than another person even though they have both been diagnosed with the same form of anxiety.

Additionally, people may have the same form of anxiety but suffer with it at different levels of severity, some may have milder anxiety and someone else may have high and intense anxiety. People will also have different things that trigger them. Triggers can include people, settings or activities which cause the individual to start having anxiety related symptoms and triggers can be unique to the individual.

Anxiety is not a real illness

Anxiety is a recognised mental health disorder and is diagnosed following the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health. It is diagnosed when the individual has a certain number of symptoms for at least a 6 month period. Symptoms of anxiety are much worse than general worries we may have about everyday life and activities, they are extreme worry and fear and have many physical symptoms that come along as a result of that. Anxiety disorder can be extremely distressing for the individual and can affect their daily life very seriously if not treated. Therefore Anxiety is a real, medically recognised illness and needs to be treated accordingly.

Anxiety disorders are not common

Anxiety disorders are actually the most common mental health illness, and around 34% of adults will experience some kind of anxiety disorder during their lifetime. They may not seem to be as common as they are due to the stigma surrounding them, people may not want to discuss their condition openly as they may feel embarrassed or that others will judge them for their symptoms.

There are also many different types of anxiety disorders, they include social anxiety, phobias, separation anxiety disorder and illness anxiety disorder. Each individual disorder will have different symptoms and will present differently due to the individual. Symptoms may not always be obvious to an outsider looking in and the individual may try to hide their disorder as best as they can, however it is very likely that most people know someone close to them be that a friend or family member who suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety will go away on its own

People may believe that anxiety is a ‘phase’ and that people grow out of it. This is not the case, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or believe you may have the condition do not ignore it as it will not go away on its own. Seek help or treatment as without it the anxiety is likely to get worse, not better.

Furthermore, anxiety is often linked with other mental health issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder and depression, and around 60% of individuals with anxiety are also diagnosed with depression. Therefore do not wait around for your anxiety to go away on its own, seek the help you need to prevent further issues.

Medication is the only treatment

While medication is available to individuals with anxiety as a form of treatment, there are also a number of non-medical treatments available such as cognitive behavioural therapy. With talking therapies such as CBT, the aim is for the individual to change their beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and thoughts towards their illness while also learning coping strategies and relaxation techniques for their anxiety. People believe that anxiety disorders are linked to individual personality traits and thought processes and to treat anxiety you have to address this, which is what CBT aims to do.

Different types of treatment will work for different people, although it has been found that a combination of the two, medication and therapy has the best results. It is important that you seek the right treatment for your anxiety, as if they are not treated properly symptoms of this disorder are likely to return.

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