Fact vs Fiction: Anxiety

As a series, ‘Fact VS Fiction’ will be taking a look at several mental health problems or topics which interest me, and I will be weighing in on some facts and myths. These will be proven (or not) through research, experience and personal opinions. Click here to see the rest of the posts in this series.

Anxiety is complex, and there might not be a reason for it

Fact. We have to be careful not to let things cause and effect. While a particular event can cause anxiety (this depends on the level of stress deemed too much for someone), this is not always the case. Anxiety can be a thought of the anticipation of the future and how we judge uncertainty.

Anxiety will cause damage to your body

Not true. While anxiety can manifest itself through physical symptoms, these will fade. Some physical symptoms include heart palpitations, rapid breathing and tightness in the chest area. These symptoms can be often mistaken for a heart problem, which is why it is important to check out ANY symptoms with a medical. Research shows an attack can last from 20 to 30 minutes before the physical symptoms begin to fade. The fight/flight system is a quick way of getting out of danger quickly, but when it wears off you get tired.

Anxiety attacks will make you faint

Myth. You may feel dizzy at times, but it is highly unlikely you will faint. When the breathing intensifies, we start hyperventilating to provide more oxygen for the heart to distribute to our arms and legs. Hyperventilating can often make us feel dizzy, making us think we’re about to faint. A decrease in blood pressure causes fainting, however during an anxiety attack the pressure INCREASES.

It’s not obvious when someone suffers from an anxiety disorder

This is true. You may be sitting next to someone at work and have no idea they are suffering. Many manage their symptoms without anyone noticing and can go unnoticed by others. Some behaviours are very noticeable: avoidance, seeking reassurance, substance and alcohol abuse, withdrawal from social events.

Anxiety manifests in many ways, whether external or not

Very true. Some report no physical symptoms, just intrusive thoughts. However, when we begin to bring attention to how the body contributes to this, some may become aware of how their breathing changes or slight muscle tensions when feeling this way.

Anxious people should avoid stressful situations

No. Confronting fears head-on can dissolve feelings of anxiety most times. It’s different for everyone. Some like to face their fears and are successful at getting over them. It could also serve as an opportunity to grow, learn and ask for appropriate support. Continuously avoiding situations and phobias may strengthen the fear.

Anxiety will simply fade

NO!! Anxiety doesn’t just resolve itself. People need appropriate support to get through anxiety. It is not ideal to let this disorder get resolved all on its own, of course. Individuals learn how to deal with anxiety in their own way, and will get used to living a particular lifestyle to manage their symptoms. Despite leading a daily life [“normal”], the distress of anxiety can be hidden. I always advise people to seek appropriate support and treatment.

There are phrases/words one should avoid

YES. “Just get over it.” “Stop worrying.” “Why don’t you just think differently about it?” “Snap out of it.” “Don’t panic yourself.” “Remain calm.” These are others similar to it should be avoided at ALL COSTS. Sometimes these can make a person more anxious because they feel misunderstood.

Medication should be avoided – it’s the last resort

NO NO NO. For some people, including myself, medication is a very useful buffer. Meds can be super helpful to downsize anxiety. People may lose the ability to think clearly and challenge negative thoughts without medication.

Anxiety impacts every walk of life

Partially true in certain cases. But many people with anxiety and actually happy, functioning adults. Anxiety does not affect a person’s WHOLE way of being; it could be just a situational and associated with specific events. Of course, it’s different to EVERY individual.

You could be confident and outgoing and still experience bouts of anxiety

YEEES. Many may not have experiences anxiety at all, then a particular event could trigger anxiety. There are traits and tendencies of behaviour and thoughts that add to worry and nervousness: while in this mindset, people appear and feel nervous.

People can recover from anxiety

This is also half-true. In my opinion, ‘recover’ isn’t the right word. It can be reduced or moved on from, however. Either with support, therapy or medication, people can learn how to deal with anxiety.rn how to deal with the anxiety differently.”

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