Anxiety Myths Debunked: 9 Common Misconceptions about Anxiety

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Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the US, with an estimated 40 million sufferers. With the right intervention and support it can be treated successfully, however, only 36.9% of those who have anxiety seek treatment.

This can be because some people are too frightened by the stigma to seek help or get medication. Although things are beginning to change, and the stigma surrounding anxiety disorders is beginning to fade.

In this article, we will debunk 9 common myths about anxiety and anxiety disorders. Read on to find out more.

Myth #1: Anxiety Disorders Aren’t a Real Illness

People often think that getting stressed or anxious is just a natural part of life. Especially, if your work or family situation is difficult or challenging. However, anxiety disorders are categorized as a condition if you experience reoccurring symptoms over a period of six or more months.

Things to watch out for are: tightness in the chest, sleep loss due to worry, racing heart, fear of dying, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. People with anxiety disorders often experience such severe feelings of anxiety or worry that they’re unable to function, or struggle with, their day-to-day lives.

Myth #2: You Need to Be an Introvert to Have Anxiety

It is wrongly assumed that only shy or introverted people have anxiety disorders. This is not true. Often people who are very confident or extroverted suffer from anxiety and can experience anxiety attacks.

There is no single personality type, or type of person, who can experience anxiety.

Myth #3: Paper Bags Help When Having a Panic Attack

There are plenty of people in films and tv hyperventilating into a paper bag when they have a panic attack. This is (supposedly) meant to calm them down and steady their breathing.

However, carrying around a paper bag all the time can actually make people anxious about their anxiety.

Do I have my paper bag with me? 
Oh no, I forgot it! What do I do if I have a panic attack now?

The anxiety and worry that can come from a crutch like a paper bag has the potential to do more harm than good. Or, it can end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, where they use it much more than they need to.

Breathing techniques without paper bags are actually recommended to be more effective than a paper bag when feeling anxious.

Myth #4: Medication for Anxiety Is Addictive, Makes You a ‘Zombie’, and Should be a Last Resort

There’s a wide range of medications that someone can take for their anxiety; and often it someone will have to try a couple different ones before they find what works best for them. That being said, most medication that doctors may prescribe doesn’t cause addiction.

The ‘zombie’ sitgma comes from the myth that anxiety medication will “dull” or “mute” someone’s personality or daily life. Making them seem like a slow-moving & -talking zombie. These worries are unfounded, though as medications simply help an anxious person reach a more “normal” mood baseline.

People suffering from anxiety simply use medication to help them better control their condition, and allow them to function in their daily life.

Also, more people are taking medication in combination with other treatment options like therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, healthy eating, exercise, and meditation.

If used properly, medication can help an anxious person get their life back.

Myth #5: If You Sleep Well, Eat Right, Exercise, and Avoid Caffeine Your Anxiety Will Be Cured

Yes, all of these things will help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing anxiety symptoms, they won’t neccessarily ‘cure’ your anxiety. It can be a long road of therapy, medication, self-reflection, and self-improvement to understand the cause and root of your anxiety.

Things such as sleep, exercise, and healthy eating will help with lowering your stress levels, but it won’t make your anxiety disappear entirely.

Holistic and healthy approaches will always help improve your overall wellbeing but sometimes more intervention will be needed to overcome certain psychological disorders.

That being said, don’t underestimate the power that treating your body right can do for your mental health.

Myth #6: Always Take the Advice From Family & Friends

It’s always nice, and often necessary, to know that you have a strong support network when you need it. When you need them, your family and friends can help when you’re feeling low and anxious. They can help your recovery process, and be the shoulder to cry on when you need it. Although they may mean well, sometimes their advice might not be exactly what you need.

It can be hard for those that have never experienced what an anxiety disorder feels like to fully understand what you’re going through. And this makes it challenging to know how to support someone with anxiety.

They may mean well, but sometimes they can only add to the problem. For example, them pressuring you to take on tasks you aren’t ready for would only make the anxiety worse.

If you are feeling pressured by your loved ones, even if they only want to help, set those boundaries to ensure they know what or what isn’t acceptable. You have a right to do what’s best for you.

You could, for example, request they check in with you at designated times a couple of times a week, rather than showing up unannounced. Or, if you’re aware of some of your triggers, let them know what they are so they can better support you.

By keeping honest and open communication between you and your loved ones, and stating your boundaries and needs, everyone involved can help ensure your progress continues.

Myth #7: Anxiety Disorders Are Easy to Spot

Just because someone isn’t having a physical or visible reaction to their anxiety, doesn’t mean that they aren’t experiencing it. Some people are very good at masking their anxiety symptoms and performing in front of colleagues or friends.

This is known as high functioning anxiety and they often share a lot of traits and symptoms with those who have anxiety disorders.

Sometimes these people aren’t even aware they are experiencing anxiety within themselves. It can be a challenge to recognize anxiety within themselves, and even more challenging to and seek help from professionals.

Myth #8: People With Anxiety Should Avoid All Stressful Situations

People with anxiety shouldn’t avoid stressful situations entirely. This can actually be more damaging for them in the recovery process. Exposure to stressful situations can help them learn to cope, and develop strategies in order to protect themselves for the future.

Avoiding things that make you feel stressed will reinforce that behavior and prevent you from doing even simple tasks. Also, it’s impossible to avoid everything that triggers anxiety. That being said, also do what you’re comfortable with; or leave your comfort zone when you’re ready. Some days will be harder than others, and that’s okay.

Speaking to a therapist can help plan the best course of action in regards to anxiety, as well as gain tools for dealing with anxiety when it occurs.

Myth #9: You Can Pass Out From a Panic Attack

It’s very unlikely that someone will pass out from having a panic attack. A sudden drop in blood pressure is what usually causes someone to faint.  With a panic attack, your blood pressure actually increases slightly.

If you’re worried about fainting from a panic attack, don’t be. Actually, you should watch out for the opposite types of physical sensations. Tightness in the chest, and feeling as if you are having a heart attack, can be common for those experiencing anxiety or panic attacks.

It can be incredibly scary if you haven’t experienced it before. It can take experience to recognize that these physical feelings are just anxiety and not a more immediate serious condition.

When these attacks happen, breathing exercises, and reminding yourself that everything is going to be okay, and that you’re not in danger can help.

Debunking Anxiety Myths: What Next?

We hope this article on the 9 common anxiety myths has helped you gain an understanding of what to believe when it comes to anxiety.

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the best thing you can do is monitor your symptoms and speak with a medical professional. You can access a range of support, medication, and therapy out there to help get your condition under control.

Additional Resources

If you feel as if you would like some additional resources that will help you find out more information about anxiety and how to cope with it, have a look at these self-help tools from the following organizations:

If you have a prescription and you would like to speak with someone about ordering prescriptions online, contact us directly.