4 Assumptions about Anxiety Which Are Actually Wrong
Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems? In fact, recent research shows that up to 1 in every 4 adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
Anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, are feelings of worry or fear that do not go away and that can actually get worse over time. These feelings can interfere with daily life and have a real impact on several aspects of an individual’s life, including:
- Work performance
- School work
There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
Each of these conditions can be coupled with a unique set of circumstances and symptoms. When it comes to substance use, some drugs can influence these feelings, like alcohol-induced anxiety. Even with how common anxiety is, there are still so many misconceptions how it comes to bear on people’s lives. So we wanted to take a look at 4 ideas about anxiety that are actually wrong.
People with anxiety always get anxious about the same things.
People who suffer from anxiety are just like anyone else in that their feelings and behavior can vary a great deal from moment to moment.
For example, if someone gets extreme anxiety while driving in a thunderstorm, it doesn’t mean they will always get anxiety while driving. A relative of mine used to only be able to drive in a car if someone was with her in the vehicle; she would experience intense anxiety if she were driving alone.
Also, a person’s mood does impact their reaction to certain situations. If someone with anxiety is in a positive and elevated mood, they may be more apt to undergoing a situation that would typically induce anxiety for them. Having some mental momentum can make a difference.
In short, just because a situation can create a moment of anxiety, doesn’t mean the same situation is guaranteed to always inspire the same worried or fearful reaction.
You can always tell when someone is having anxiety
In my opinion, this one is definitely on point. Sometimes people get the idea that someone with anxiety will be visibly afraid. Movies and TV shows depict a panic attack as someone breathing into a brown paper bag and hyperventilating. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what a panic attack looks like.
As someone who has experienced plenty of anxiety attacks, I can definitely say that I’ve been around people who typically have no idea what I am experiencing. On the outside, someone having a panic attack can seem perfectly calm, but beneath the surface, things are far more unsettling.
In fact, a lot of anxiety symptoms are internal. Some symptoms of a panic attack can go completely unnoticed externally, such as:
- Heart racing
- Chest tightening
- Upset stomach
And a lot of anxiety hinges on the individual’s thoughts. So while someone is in their head wondering “am I dying” or “am I going crazy” they probably look like they are thinking about what they want for lunch. Unless the person with anxiety speaks out, you may never know what they are thinking.
Anxiety is a weakness of the mind
The idea that people with anxiety are somehow weak of mind or weak in willpower is absolutely unfounded. It goes along with the idea that courage is not being afraid. But in reality, true courage is about being afraid of something and doing it anyway.
The same can be said about people with anxiety. While there are times when people lose out on opportunities or their lives suffer because they become overwhelmed by their anxiety, many people living with anxiety actually have to face some of their most nuanced fears every single day.
Some people with anxiety are afraid of intimacy. Some of us are afraid for our health for the most seemingly random reasons. Anxiety manifests in many ways, and a lot of us walk through that fear all the time with a smile on our face. Often treatment for severe anxiety will entail purposely facing the thing you are most afraid of.
People with anxiety have a certain kind of mental strength that is hard to understand until you face something that makes your heart race with true terror, and you get over it without anyone even noticing.
Anxiety isn’t that serious
Some people may even read that last part and think; it can’t be that serious. I’ve felt anxious before, it’s not that big of a deal.
Without experiencing an anxiety disorder there is no way to truly quantify your experience with someone who has anxiety. You may feel your own experience with feeling nervous or stressed is comparable, but an anxiety disorder has a much more profound impact on someone’s life.
Not only are the feelings different from the more common sense of concern or anxiousness, but the resulting impact on your mindset is also a factor. People with anxiety tend to:
- Think about their anxiety a lot of the time
- Avoid things they need or want because of anxiety
- Judge themselves for their anxiety and reacts to situations
It isn’t just the feeling of fear, but how the fear can make you feel about yourself. Even though you are not weak, you might assume that is how others see your anxiety and thus, view yourself as weak. It can be frustrating when people don’t understand or underestimate your anxiety, and it can cause very real issues in your relationships.
Anxiety can be a consuming thing that dictates what you do on a daily basis. It can be something that rushes in out of nowhere when you least expect it to cripple you mentally. Sometimes it can feel like your own mind is holding you hostage, and you aren’t sure if you are second-guessing a very real danger or overreacting.
And in the end, anxiety can be downright exhausting.
Facing Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder
It will take a lot of work to overcome the stereotypes and stigma attached to anxiety and anxiety disorders. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. But we can work a little bit every day to try help people understand how anxiety impacts people’s lives.
Anxiety disorders are often connected to drug and alcohol abuse. Substance use disorders commonly co-occur with other mental health conditions. Many people who struggle with drugs or alcohol use these substances to self-medicate.
An important aspect of getting treatment for substance use disorder when you have severe anxiety is to seek dual diagnosis treatment options. Dual diagnosis treatment gives people a resource to receive treatment for both their issues with drugs or alcohol, while also receiving help for their mental health disorder. If an individual gets treated for one but ignores the other, the odds are that the co-occurring disorder will make the recovery process much more difficult, and can even lead to relapse. Be sure to find a program that offers comprehensive care for both conditions to help ensure a lasting recovery.