As someone who has suffered from anxiety for several years, it is hard not to feel hurt or belittled by what others have to say about it. Regardless of whether or not you are open to strangers about your mental health experiences, it is often a topic of conversation that is difficult to avoid – however what people may not realise is that sweeping statements and misconceptions surrounding mental health can be damaging to individuals who are suffering. In a bid to encourage openness and understanding of anxiety, we have compiled 5 of the most common and incorrect misconceptions surrounding this disorder.
Individuals with anxiety are “nervous-wrecks” or “worriers” etc
The most common misconception regarding anxiety disorders is that individuals who suffer from anxiety are just generally more prone to worrying, or are generally of a nervous disposition, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Individuals with anxiety are just as likely to be extroverted, laid-back and fun-loving as the average person. Despite common opinion, there is a huge difference between worrying and experiencing anxiety and/or panic attacks. Anxiety can strike at any time to anyone, regardless of personality or disposition, and often has little to do with a tendency to worry, and more to do with factors outside of the individual’s control. Branding anxiety disorders as a personality defect not only belittles people who may be suffering, but perpetuates an incorrect and offensive stereotype.
Anxiety always has a known cause
If you have ever experienced anxiety, you have likely been asked “Why?” more times than you can count. And, while this question likely comes from a good place, in fact, having someone ask you why you are feeling anxious is not only completely pointless in most cases, but also quite frustrating. While yes, sometimes people can identify what has caused a specific anxious period, more often than not there is no obvious answer. The truth is, people experience anxiety for a variety of reasons, and these are not always things that they are consciously aware of. Although it might seem automatic to ask “Why?” a more appropriate response may be “Is there anything I can do?” – Because quite often we don’t know why, and we wish we did.
Anxiety only affects women
It’s unclear why, but this one is more common than you might think. Despite recent emphasis on encouraging men to be more open about mental health, anxiety is still something which is categorically considered a feminine disorder. This is simply not the case, and can be detrimental to those who identify as male and think they may be suffering from anxiety, as it may discourage them to seek help. Similarly, this belief can affect females too, in that it can lead to unsubstantiated and harmful arguments that anxiety is ‘just hormones’ or a ‘typical female reaction’, which may also stop people from seeking help.
Having anxiety isn’t a big deal
Strangely, people have a tendency to rank mental health problems in terms of seriousness, with anxiety falling at the bottom of this scale as “not a big deal”. Unfortunately, all mental health problems can be a big deal if left untreated or avoided, much like any physical problem, and the attitude that it is “just anxiety” is one which can be very harmful long term. Luckily however, much as with physical health problems, with the right help and advice most mental health issues can be managed effectively. For someone suffering with anxiety, my advice would be to seek help before it becomes a big deal, but just to be clear – anxiety is not something which should be taken lightly, or mocked.
Anxiety is not that common
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems, and affect 1 in 4 people. Feelings of anxiety are thought to be caused by an overactive fight or flight response – something which we all have at times – meaning that no one is guaranteed to be exempt from periods of unwarranted anxiety or panic, and most people have experienced something similar. Feeling anxious is completely natural in many situations, such as before an important interview or exam, and from an evolutionary perspective serves an important function in helping us prepare to respond to danger. However, if it becomes a common (or even daily) occurrence, or begins to significantly interfere with your life, it may be time to seek help.
Source: Dr julian