7 Anxiety Myths Busted
by Ken Goodman, LCSW
Myth or reality? Panic attacks are dangerous. To reduce stress, avoid what makes you anxious. Medication is the best treatment for anxiety disorders.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to anxiety. In this article, we’ll take a look at seven common anxiety myths and the reality behind them.
Myth #1: Anxiety disorders are rare.
Reality: Just the opposite is true. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. Given the shame associated with mental illness, people with anxiety tend to hide their disorder and not talk about it, which is probably why it’s surprising that 18% of the population suffers with anxiety.
Myth #2: People with anxiety should avoid things that make them anxious.
Reality: Avoiding what makes you anxious only strengthens the fear. As you avoid more and more, your comfort zone becomes smaller and smaller. Remember that you can be anxious and still accomplish what has to be done. Effective anxiety treatment involves gradually exposing yourself to the source of your anxiety, so that you can learn to cope with it and not avoid.
Myth #3: Panic attacks are dangerous.
Reality: Every day, thousands of people enter emergency rooms convinced they are having a heart attack and are surprised to learn that the pounding in their chest is actually a panic attack. Panic attacks feel like heart attacks. The good news? They’re not. The heart is a very strong muscle, and a panic attack cannot kill you.
Panic can also result in difficulty breathing or a sensation that your throat is closing. Although it may feel like you can’t breathe, that’s all it is: a feeling. (I removed the sentence here about breathing being fine) Panic attacks feel horrible, but they are not fatal.
Myth #4: If you’re an anxious person, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Reality: Anxiety disorders are treatable regardless of the severity or how long you’ve been suffering. Click here to watch success story videos of people who have suffered with debilitating anxiety and learn how they got better.
Myth #5: Having a drink can help you get through an anxiety-provoking situation.
Reality: While self-medicating with alcohol is common among people with anxiety disorders, it’s not effective. In fact, any self-medicating—whether with alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, or other drugs—is just another way of avoiding the discomfort of anxiety instead of facing it. In the end, self-medicating can make the anxiety worse and cause additional mental and physical health problems, including addiction.
Myth #6: People with anxiety are crazy.
Reality: People with anxiety are not crazy. They do not experience hallucinations or delusions. They are not admitted to psychiatric hospitals. People with anxiety tend to be creative, intelligent, and often very successful. Anxiety is a normal emotion all people experience from time to time.
Myth #7: Medication is the best treatment for anxiety disorders.
Reality: While medication can be helpful in treating anxiety, recent studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be more effective than medication, especially in the long run.