The Mighty Logo

The 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Anxiety

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I almost died today… in my mind. It happens sometimes, when I’m overscheduled and haven’t had enough sleep, which was the case today. I was having trouble taking a deep breath. I felt like I was on the verge of tears. And the urge to flee was making my skin crawl. And yet, to the outside, I was a 40-something professional woman on her way to pick up her son between navigating all that goes into running her household and her business. My point? I didn’t look like I was having an anxiety attack, even though on the inside I felt like I was at DEFCON 1. Which leads me to today’s post, where I hope to debunk some commonly held myths about anxiety to continue to shine a light on this condition and how it affects 40 million adult Americans.

1. People with anxiety can’t be really successful.

This little old myth couldn’t be further from the truth. I can understand where this belief may come from: people who struggle with anxiety do have a bigger hill to climb when it comes to certain things. However, the truth is in addition to the everyday superheroes in the Anxiety Warrior Club, we also have recognizable folks like Ryan Reynolds as notable members.

2. People with anxiety need to avoid all stress.

This goes along with the first myth, but while people with anxiety can be triggered by certain types of stress, the reality is we can also kick ass in a stressful situation. At let’s face it; life is full of the unexpected and outside of living in a plastic bubble (which actually sounds stressful), it’s impossible to live a completely stress-free life. For those of us with anxiety, we’re responsible for finding coping mechanisms to help us not only survive stressors but to thrive.

3. People with anxiety don’t have anything to be anxious

I hear this all the time. “You seem so together and have a great life; what do you have to be anxious about?” I have a chemical glitch in my brain, duh. But seriously, there is a genetic component to having anxiety and imbalances of our hormones and chemical messengers to the brain play a role in folks who have anxiety and those who don’t.

4. A healthy lifestyle will always cure anxiety.

While I wish this was true, it is most certainly a myth. Eating a vegan diet, taking vitamins and exercising may help improve our health and help reduce the stress that can trigger episodes, but people who struggle with anxiety sometimes need more support. It’s not something a “healthy lifestyle” can simply fix.

5. People with anxiety are fragile.

One of the things that annoys me is how, when some people find out I have anxiety, they treat me like I could break out with a case of the “vapors” at any time. I know these people are well-meaning and are trying to be compassionate, but I don’t view myself as fragile.

Listen: I’m a badass because I can be in the midst of a “white noise buzzing in my ears, brain screaming at me to flee” episode and still attend meetings, get my kids to school on time, bake brownies for friends and work on my book. Learning to live and thrive with anxiety has increased my resilience tenfold and it has molded me into an anxiety warrior, not a shrinking violet.

There are a lot of misconceptions about folks with anxiety. I share some in the hopes of not only dispelling them but to also highlight how awesome we can be. It may sound selfish on my part, but the more understanding we can create, the better your relationship can be with your loved one who battles anxiety.

Photo by David Bazo on Unsplash

Originally published: November 5, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home