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5 Things We Need to Stop Saying About Anxiety Disorders

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Some people still seem to believe it’s a choice to have anxiety and depression, and I find it sickening. This is what I want to tell those people, from someone who has an anxiety disorder:

1. Don’t tell me anxiety disorders don’t exist when talented scientists have researched the difference between a healthy brain and one riddled with anxiety. Facts and research supersede your “opinion.”

2. Don’t tell me anxiety disorders aren’t important when mental health equals brain health and the brain is one of the most important organs in your body. How is mental illness less severe than physical illness when it affects how you think, act and feel?

3. Don’t tell me that exercising more will fix me. Sure, it helps. For an hour my head is clear. But anxiety knows all of my weaknesses and all of the cracks. Unless I spent all day and night exercising, it wouldn’t keep my anxiety away. It’s like telling someone they would look better with makeup — eventually it rubs off. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on your wrist when you’ve shattered your bones. A Band-Aid doesn’t heal a broken bone and exercise can’t cure my anxiety.

4. Don’t tell me you’ve just had a massive “panic attack” when you’ve been startled or surprised. Know the terminology and use it correctly, please. A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions with no apparent cause — not the feeling you get when someone jumps out at you. An anxiety attack is a sudden feeling of intense anxiety.

5. Don’t tell me my anxiety disorder is an act of selfishness when my heart aches, my lungs clench and tears rise up at the thought of having to cancel plans and let you down. Or when 80 percent of my thoughts are of you, hoping you’re happy and safe.

But tell me, knowing all of this: Why on Earth would you think I chose to live like this?

If you don’t have a mental disorder please take the time to educate yourself before bearing down judgment.

Ignorance is a choice.

Follow this journey on Adventures of Shy Girl.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: November 30, 2015
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