As human beings, it is entirely normal to experience anxiety. Our brain’s flight or fight response serves as a protector, alerting us to any potential threats to our safety. However, for some of us our flight or fight response becomes activated when we don’t need it to.
When our brain is constantly alerting us to potential threats, as irrational as they may be, we are forced to take notice. This is why anxiety suffers often feel on edge- their brains are constantly tipping them off that something frightening is lurking around the next corner.
Many people experience life in this way but unfortunately, stigma scares many of them out of talking about or even learning more about their anxiety. As a result, many misconceptions surrounding anxiety have emerged.
These misconceptions can be damaging not only to the sufferers themselves but also to their friends and family who are eager to provide their support.
Here are 10 misconceptions that anxiety suffers want the rest of the world to be aware of so that they can better understand what we are going through and how to help.
1. “Talking it out” won’t always work
When someone is going through a tough time, a popular question to ask is, “Do you want to talk about it?” But for those with anxiety, this isn’t always a helpful method.
When we are in an anxious state, sometimes the last thing we need to do is discuss it in further detail. We do a lot of self-examination in our heads, which can be pretty exhausting on its own; expressing it vocally may drain us even more.
Instead, ask if there is anything you can do to help. We may just want to be alone or we may ask for your support in another way. The experience of anxiety is different for all of us, so it is best to simply ask, “How can I help?”
2. We are rational people who, at times, think illogically (and we know it)
From the outside, we know that our fears can seem pretty silly. But they are all too real on the inside. We try really hard to convince ourselves that in reality, the things we fear pose no threat at all.
This is challenging to do because we are fighting against a number of factors that contribute to this fearful response such as genetics, past experience or trauma. We know when our fears are illogical, but that doesn’t mean we can just make them go away.
3. Medication is far from a quick fix
If there was a miracle drug for anxiety, we would all be on it and there would be zero trace of anxiety in any of us. Medications do exist to treat symptoms of anxiety but they certainly don’t cure it.
While many have found that these medications provide temporary relief to symptoms, they would agree that their anxiety hasn’t magically vanished entirely.
4. Anxiety can be managed but not controlled
There are a number of methods for managing anxiety, such as exercise, meditation, diet and therapy., which is encouraging for those who feel victim to their anxiety. While there isn’t a cure-all by any means, there are ways to keep symptoms in check.
However, sufferers simply cannot control when or how anxiety will strike. The very best we can do is simply be prepared for when it reels its ugly head.
5. The cause of our anxiety isn’t always an obvious one
Sometimes we experience anxiety and have not a clue as to where it stemmed from. Giving a big work presentation is an obvious reason to feel anxious, but for those who experience anxiety regularly, the cause isn’t always so obvious.
We will exert a lot of energy in trying to figure out where the anxious feelings are coming from, but we can’t always come up with an answer.
6. It can strike out of nowhere
Things can be going perfectly smooth when all of a sudden a wave of anxiety crashes down. There is no rhyme or reason to anxiety sometimes and it can surprise us just as much as it stuns you.
We know it can be really inconvenient for those around us when anxiety strikes, but know that we are doing everything we can to manage it.
7. Anxiety can affect us both mentally and physically
Anxiety is not only felt mentally but it can also take its toll physically. A common misconception is that anxiety is simply feeling nervous or uneasy, but for many of us, it affects us in a much larger way.
Our brains being in a constant anxious state can cause us to feel extremely fatigued. We may also experience digestive problems, dizziness, and tension headaches.
8. You may not sense our anxiety, but it is always there
When you’ve experienced anxiety for a significant length of time, you become better at concealing it from others. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t something brewing on the inside. If we feel anxious but aren’t in a position where we feel comfortable expressing it, we will hide it and pretend that everything is absolutely fine.
This is an uncomfortable experience because we are feeling one thing internally but trying to convey something entirely different externally.
9. We may judge and criticize our anxiety, but expect that you won’t
Anxious people can get down on themselves for feeling the way they do (which is why acceptance is so important to us). We will judge and criticize our thoughts, which will lead to more negative thoughts and in turn, create those feelings of anxiety.
It’s something we are working on but ask that while we master being more accepting and less judgmental of our own anxiety, that you do the same. Understand that we are doing the best we can and support us as we tackle any negative judgment or criticism.
10. If becoming less anxious were a choice, we would certainly choose it
We never chose to be this way. Anxiety was never our first choice. For reasons that we may never fully understand, we are anxious people and work extremely hard every day to not let it get in the way of the lives we want to live.
We never signed up for this fight but we know deep down that we are strong enough to win it.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com