Anxiety is one of the rising mental health conditions in the UK, yet research from The Priory Group ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week has revealed that most people think they are being lazy, self-indulgent and ridiculous.
They asked people with anxiety to share their experiences and show what it felt like to be stigmatised or for people to not treat it like an actual condition.
The question asked was: What is the worst thing that has been said to you about your anxiety?
The responses, The Priory said, were shocking and ranged from: “At least it’s not cancer” to “Don’t be so soft”.
Dr Paul McLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Hayes Grove, said: “Despite there being as many as one in four sufferers of anxiety there is still a stigma attached to mental health.
“We need to work on educating people to help them understand that anxiety is a normal part of human experience and that it is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Dr McLaren also explained that sufferers also tend to feel guilty about their anxiety. He added: “I think there is a lot of shame about anxiety and depression. We are more used to thinking of shame with depression but it does certainly happen with anxiety as well.
“I think people think ‘well what on earth have I got to be worrying about; my circumstances are good, I’ve got a good life, a home, I’m safe so why am I so frightened’ and that’s the point that’s what makes it an illness – you’re frightened when there isn’t anything to justify it. It is something that is not easy to switch off.”
The stigma surrounding people with anxiety is something Jonathan, 18, a long term anxiety sufferer has experienced.
He explained: “I found it (my anxiety) really difficult to tell anyone about. Even to this day I still find it a really awkward topic to speak to someone about face to face.
“Throughout my whole life it’s sort of been brushed off, because I never really understood it. I always have that fear in the back of my mind that they probably won’t understand or think I’m making it up or something like that.”
He added: “Saying phrases such as ‘snap out of it’ or ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’ are hugely detrimental because what that person doesn’t realise, is that they are embedding those thoughts into the anxiety suffers mind which is ultimately making it worse.”
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