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Mental Health Misconceptions: Anxiety

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Anxiety is one of the most misunderstood mental health condition there is. Most people assume that anxiety is a natural feeling, that comes and goes depending on your circumstances. While this is true, it’s important to understand that infrequent feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders are two different things. Someone who has an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety on an everyday basis. If and when your anxiety starts to impact your ability to function in your everyday life, it may be time to see a mental health professional.

Here are the most common misconceptions about anxiety, and why they’re not true:

Misconception: A lot of people think they have anxiety, but actual anxiety disorders aren’t that common.

Nearly 20 percent of American adults experience an anxiety disorder every year. In fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health conditions. Most people go months, and even years before seeing a mental health provider. When people wait this long to get the care they need, it can be detrimental to their mental health. Often times it can be hard to know when it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional, but keep in mind that it’s never too early to see a therapist. Having a professional help you address your anxiety can alleviate stress and ensure you’re getting suitable care.

Misconception: Anxiety isn’t really a diagnosable illness...everyone gets anxiety sometimes.

While it’s true that most people get anxious at times, actually anxiety disorders are not the same as feeling anxious. Diagnosable anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, certain phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Those who are diagnosed with anxiety are experiencing feelings that are taking over their life, and impacting their ability to function.

Misconception: Having an alcoholic drink is an easy and efficient coping mechanism for anxiety.

It may be true that having a little bit of alcohol eases the feelings of anxiety, but this not a healthy coping mechanism. The effects of alcohol on an anxiety disorder are short and impermanent. Additionally, if someone is dependent on alcohol as a coping mechanism, they could be at risk for developing an alcohol addiction.

Misconception: If someone has an anxiety disorder, the only solution is serious medication.

In most cases, mental health professionals will suggest alternative solutions to medicine before prescribing, especially if it is clear that their patient would prefer not to be on medication. While medicine is undoubtedly a great solution for some, not everyone responds well to prescribed medication when it comes to their anxiety. If you or someone you know has anxiety and is worried about being put on medication, do not worry. There are solutions for anxiety disorders that don’t involve taking pills.

Misconception: If people with anxiety just learned to relax, they could snap out of it.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most people with anxiety disorders will require some type of dedicated help in order to learn proper coping mechanisms. As with all mental health conditions, it can be hard for people to understand anxiety since they’ve never been through it themselves. The best way to handle a situation where you want to tell someone with anxiety to “relax”, is to try to understand their perspective, and suggest real coping mechanisms with definitive steps. This could be something like getting them out of a crowded space, trying to get their attention off whatever triggered their anxiety, or just standing by their side while they try to work through it.

We hope this clears things up! Mental health conditions can be a tricky topic to talk about, but the more we share information with others, the less stigmatized mental health will be. If you or someone you know has anxiety and would like to see a mental health professional, go to to be matched with a therapist that fits your needs.

Last Updated:
First Published:
July 29, 2019
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