If you’ve been here before, you probably know I struggle with anxiety. Although it’s much better managed now, along the way I have heard many myths about anxiety, ranging from well meaning but wrong, to downright absurd.
I’ve found that most of these myths about anxiety generally come from a place of not understanding, or lack of education. Anxiety can be hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it!
That’s why today I’ve decided to share 6 of the most common myths about anxiety I’ve heard, and why they’re wrong. If you like this kind of post, you can also check out my previous post on myths about depression.
Please note I am not a mental health professional and this article is written only from my own experience and research. If you are struggling please consult a professional, or check out some crisis resources here.
1. Social anxiety is just shyness
One of the biggest myths about social anxiety, is that it’s just shyness. While I can understand how they appear similar, they’re very different.
Firstly, Beyond Blue defines shyness as a personality trait, not a disorder meaning how they manifest and how they’re managed is different. A shy person may feel uncomfortable when they are the centre of attention or put on the spot, but it generally doesn’t cause ongoing distress.
Social anxiety or social phobia on the other hand can feel absolutely crippling, even for a casual outing. Things like eating, drinking, talking or even things like public transport can feel absolutely terrifying.
This means that any social outing usually includes some combination of fear, embarrassment, sweating, shaking, blushing or a whole host of other symptoms. This makes any outing a seriously exhausting experience!
If you have a friend who suffers from social anxiety, check out this post for some simple ways to help them.
2. Avoidance = laziness
Another common myth about anxiety, is that it’s just an excuse to cover for laziness.
Struggling with anxiety, especially social anxiety can mean avoiding a lot of things. This can be dodging invites, turning down invitations or coming up with excuses not to do something or see people.
Some people mistake this for laziness when really it’s just a signs of being overwhelmed. Doing things when you struggle with anxiety can be incredibly exhausting and take a lot of recharging to recover from, so avoidance is common.
Obviously that avoidance needs to be managed in an appropriate way, but it’s not born from laziness.
3. You just need to push through it and ignore it
Possibly the most common myth about anxiety is that you can just ignore it and push through it.
This advice is based on the assumption that an anxiety disorder functions the same as general nerves someone might feel before a job interview. While it may work for general anxiousness, it doesn’t work for anxiety disorders!
There are many coping mechanisms to help lessen the impact of an anxiety disorder, but you can’t just simply ignore it and push through it. I wish it were that easy!
4. You can use logic to beat it
This is another one of the myths about anxiety that I wish were true. It makes sense right, anxiety is illogical therefore using logic can fix it.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy, and although it can form part of a larger management strategy, trying to just use logic can be even more frustrating!
Of course I logically know that people aren’t sitting around waiting to laugh at me, but my anxiety doesn’t care. Anxiety defies, and ignores logic.
5. It’s just nerves
It’s totally normal to get nerves before a test, an interview, a first date. Nerves are a sign of pushing comfort zones and are a healthy part of personal growth. These nerves also generally subside either during or after the scary event.
However some people assume an anxiety disorder is the same as normal nerves. This can lead to some well intentioned but ultimately unhelpful advice like ‘just push through it’ or ‘you’ll get over it’.
It even leads to the classic advice of ditching coffee and changing the diet being the cure. While this is helpful for general nerves and anxiety, it won’t cure an anxiety disorder.
While it’s important to challenge anxiety and work through it, it takes a lot of work and a comprehensive plan to address it.
Anxiety disorders are incredibly common, but hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it. Unfortunately there is a lack of education and understanding around mental illness, which leads to myths about anxiety and other disorders.
That’s why even though I’m not a mental health professional, I want to share these posts from the perspective of someone who has struggled with it. It’s hard enough fighting the disorder let alone fighting misinformation too!
If you liked this post or know someone who will, please consider sharing it!