Anxiety is a much-misunderstood psychological condition.
Some question its existence as a health disorder, leaving sufferers lost in a world that does not understand them.
However, as any psychology professional knows, anxiety is as real and potentially incapacitating a disorder as depression. And like depression, it can only be healed with a well-planned mix of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), professional counseling, and medication.
If properly-treated, anxiety sufferers can go on to have happy, functional professional and personal lives.
Here are 10 common myths about anxiety.
Myth 1: Anxiety is “not a real illness.” Anxiety is a real illness. There are no blood tests that can detect it, no scan that will diagnose the locus of anxiety, but an anxiety disorder affects your life, takes over your waking moments, and prevents sleep. It causes physical symptoms including heart palpitations, dry mouth, and nausea. It’s a very real physical illness and can be controlled and treated like other physical illnesses.
Myth 2: Everyone has to face anxiety. Stressful situations are a part of life. But there is a difference between being anxious about an upcoming exam and suffering from an anxiety disorder, which is far more serious. If you find yourself feeling unusually anxious, having panic-attacks, experiencing heart palpitations, and being unable to sleep due, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Myth 3: People with anxiety should just avoid stress. Not only is it impossible to avoid all stressful situations, it can actually be counterproductive. If a certain situation — such as crowds or crossing a bridge — makes you anxious, consciously avoiding it will only reinforce your anxiety and make the disorder worse the next time you have to face that situation. It’s better togo to therapy and desensitize yourself to that situation slowly.
Myth 4: Panic attacks make you faint. Panic attacks do not make you faint. Low blood pressure, which is not experienced in a panic attack, causes you to faint. Although you feel like you are losing control in a panic attack, you have not lost control. Psychologists can even carry on conversations with patients during panic attacks.
Myth 5: Always carry a paper bag in case of panic attack. Carrying a paper bag will prepare you for another panic attack. By preparing for another panic attack, you make a panic attack more likely to occur.
Myth 6: Only nervous people develop anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are actually very common. An estimated 18 percent of the American population has an anxiety disorder — that’s about 1 in 6 people. They are caused by a mix of genetics and experience.
Myth 7: Anxiety will get better on its own. It likely will not. Anxiety requires treatment with a qualified professional. If you try to “wait and see,” the condition could get worse. In addition, up to 60 percent of patients with anxiety disorder experience depression, which also requires treatment.
Myth 8: People who say they have anxiety just need to get over it. Anxiety is a genuine health condition, not something you can just “get over.” Recovery is very possible, but it takes a structured regimen of therapy, counseling, and occasionally medication.
Myth 9: A little booze will make things better. Many patients with anxiety try self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs. Not only does this not work, it’s counterproductive. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it lowers your mood. Many illicit drugs cause anxiety as a side effect, meaning you need to keep taking them to temporarily distract yourself from your anxiety. Result: you still have anxiety, but now you also have a drug problem to deal with.
Myth 10: Therapy takes a lifetime to work. Results vary, but you could see improvement after just a few sessions of CBT or counseling. With CBT, up to 75 percent of patients experienced at least a 50 percent improvement in symptoms.
If you experience anxiety, consult your doctor today. They could advise on the best psychological help, so you can take steps to improve your condition.
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