Health, Life

Mental Health Moments – Common Misconceptions About Having Anxiety From An Anxiety Sufferer

common misconceptions about anxiety

You might have seen my recent article about PTSD. It was the first article in my ‘mental health moment’s blog series. In this series, I will be covering stories from real people who are dealing with different mental health challenges. I’d like to raise awareness of different issues and start a discussion. 

We’ve covered PTSD, next up – anxiety. Olivia Snow felt she wanted to challenge some of the lies that get spread about anxiety, and as a fellow anxiety sufferer myself, I’m totally on board with that. Check out Olivia’s article below…

If you’ve clicked on this post, you’re probably just as peeved as I am about the myths that fly about concerning anxiety. Or, you want to find out more about the mental illness itself. Either way, hello and welcome!

Anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of. And you’re not alone. There are probably plenty of people you know who struggle with anxiety, it’s just they keep it a secret from the world.  According to Anxiety UK, more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. And, 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety. 

It’s helpful to talk about mental health and challenge common assumptions. When you’re suffering and you can feel people judging you, or they just don’t get it at all, it can be extremely frustrating. So let’s challenge some common misconceptions about anxiety and try to help everyone understand it a little better. Here are three lies about anxiety that can really irritate those who suffer with it.

Challenging common misconceptions and lies about anxiety

Misconception #1 – Being anxious is the same as being nervous

Yup, for a long time, I thought this too. Anxiety is a deep-rooted fear of a situation or a predicted outcome, whereas nervousness is an in-the-moment worry about a situation. When you feel nervous, you might feel shy and awkward, but anxiety manifests itself in different ways. 

You might feel nauseous, shaky, sweaty, ill and out of your depth with the situation. Anxiety can prevent you from doing work/leaving the house/getting involved with activities, to name a few examples. 

Throwing the word ‘anxiety’ around can be demeaning to those who suffer from the illness. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘___ is giving me anxiety’ to describe something that makes someone feel nervous – more than once. 

It’s important to bear in mind that different things spur our anxiety on, so what one person might simply feel nervous about is a situation that causes anxiety for another. Recognising the difference between the two emotions means that you can deal with your feelings/another’s feelings accordingly. (If you think you might be suffering from anxiety or want to know some common triggers, check out the article here for a deeper insight.)

Misconception #2 – If you’re confident, you can’t have anxiety.

Have you ever found out someone has anxiety and you just can’t believe it? Because in person, they seem fine and appear to have their shizz together. Well, often, what people project to the outside world is a far cry from their internal world. 

‘But you’re so confident! How can you be anxious?’

There are different types of anxiety – social anxiety and general anxiety being the two major forms. I suffer from the latter, meaning that my anxiety flares up not so much in social situations, but from situations concerning problems I think I have caused, or where I feel I may have upset someone.

I am able to present in front of the class and take exams, and while I may feel a little nervous (see point 1), I do not experience the same symptoms I do when I’m faced with an argument or an upset. 

In addition, those with social anxiety can appear confident too! It really depends on the situation, and what factors trigger anxious thoughts. These are different for everyone. It’s similar to finding out someone suffers from depression and saying ‘But you’ve been smiling all week! How are you depressed?’ People are certainly not always as they seem, which is why it’s extra important to be kind to others. 

Misconception #3 – Having anxiety makes you weak

From my experience, anxiety has made me stronger than I thought possible. I have battled through many anxiety-inducing situations and have come out the other side, as I’m sure many of you have too. It certainly does not involve weakness, as those who deal with anxiety or any mental illness have the strength within them to carry on through every day, even when it seems impossible. This proves great courage and strength, so you should be extremely proud that you are still living every day whilst fighting with your mind. 

I’m sure there are many more myths and misconceptions about anxiety that you have all seen/heard of/dealt with. Feel free to comment them below!
For those suffering, know that it will get better and that feeling will not last forever. For a great website on how to better understand your anxiety/other people’s anxiety, click here.