The 3 Anxiety Myths That Probably Have You Fooled
These anxiety myths are a source of pain and suffering for those who struggle with the impact of anxiety, as well as for those who care about someone who has an anxiety habit or disorder.
If you struggle to get your head above water when dealing with anxiety, you likely crave having more control over your emotions and in your life in general. Becoming more aware of your beliefs about anxiety will give you clarity and control. If you’re feeling stuck, something that you believe is probably keeping you stuck. Examine your own assumptions about anxiety as you consider each common anxiety myth.
Anxiety Myth #1: A person with anxiety should avoid potentially stressful situations
It’s not possible to avoid all stressful situations. This is partially because anxiety will cause you to view neutral situations in a stressful way. Trying to avoid stressful situations also implies to your subconscious that you cannot handle the situation.
Instead, think about the ways that you can handle a situation. See how many ideas you can list for responding positively in a situation. This will help you feel in control of yourself even though you can’t control the actions of others.
Even if you handle the situation by choosing to remove yourself from the situation, viewing it as choosing to respond to the stress (rather than avoiding making a choice at all) is healthy for your mind.
For example, rather than letting anxiety stop you from going to a party that you want to attend (even though it could be anxiety provoking) think of ways to enjoy yourself and handle the situation. If you don’t actually want to go to the party, choose not to go —not because you can’t handle potential anxiety at the party, but because you don’t want to go.
If there isn’t benefit or incentive enough to engage in a situation, you can learn to give yourself permission to consider and choose based on what you want, not based on what anxiety (or anyone else) tells you that you must do. You don’t have to force yourself into all stressful situations, just like you don’t have to avoid them.
Bottom line: A person with anxiety can benefit from recognizing and practicing positive ways to handle a situation, rather than avoiding experiencing any stress at all.
Staying true to what you want rather than letting other people (or anxiety) make decisions for you helps you recalibrate your internal gauge of your priorities and abilities.
Anxiety Myth #2: If a person with anxiety learns how to deal with stress, anxiety will go away.
It is possible to manage stress using logical thinking. However, logic rarely helps a person with anxiety as it does not help address the symptoms of anxiety. Trying to outsmart anxiety with logic often leads to self-judgement and hopelessness.
Expecting someone with anxiety to “push through it” and handle stress like a non-anxious person will likely only cause some of their symptoms to increase, whether it is panic, negative thinking, or physiological pain like stomach aches, headaches or shortness of breath.
More often than not, anxiety will find a topic to latch onto regardless of how well you handle the situation (such as a heavy workload from your job or school). Phobias relate to a very specific thing, such as crowds, heights, etc., but an anxiety disorder can travel from topic to topic (focusing on some things more than others) and latch onto it, further instilling the habit of over-thinking, worry and/or negativity.
Although it may seem like someone with anxiety is irresponsible, sensitive, lazy or unable to deal with stress, the issue is not lack of awareness of ways to handle situations, it is the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety that prevent the person from being able to problem-solve the way a person without anxiety would. Someone with anxiety handles daily level of stress that a person without an anxiety disorder likely only has in a life-threatening situation.
While logical ways to manage stress are sometimes useful short-term, a person will anxiety must learn to address the anxiety in order to heal and function with more ease, responsibility and enjoyment in life.
The level of distress experienced with anxiety is far more than a normal level of stress. Anxiety doesn’t disappear once a situation improves; relief is temporary unless the anxiety itself is addressed – not just the situation on the surface.
Anxiety Myth #3: Therapy is necessary when anxiety becomes too hard to handle on your own.
Many delay starting therapy because it seems like a huge time commitment. If you want it to be, therapy is a long and involved process where you delve deep into your understanding of yourself and your mind. However, it’s more common to seek relief in the short term, and you will experience relief and stability to some degree with just a few sessions of therapy with an anxiety treatment expert with whom you connect.
You probably already have ways of helping yourself with anxiety and a therapist can help you build upon those to accomplish even more. You likely also have habits intended to help you that actually make the cycle of anxiety more overwhelming (things such as avoiding situations or criticizing yourself to try to motivate yourself). The longer you practice negative habits, the more difficult it will be to develop healthier and more lasting ways of dealing with anxiety, stress and all uncomfortable emotions.
Anxiety myths are often developed subconsciously as a way of avoiding difficult emotions, which temporarily protects you from dealing with them, but leaves you less equipped to calmly and confidently navigate life situations.
Don’t wait for a breakdown to get help. Because of the insidious nature of anxiety in your thoughts and emotions, it is extremely difficult to make improvements without help from a professional. Anxiety slowly damages trust in relationships and takes a significant toll on both physical and mental health. Fortunately, just a few sessions with a therapist who specializes in anxiety may offer significant insight, relief and improvement in your life.
The sooner you address your anxiety symptoms with a professional, the sooner you will feel more in control and combat anxiety myths on your own. Waiting for a problem to become “big” enough increases the negative affects of anxiety. Relief and positive change are possible in just a short time.