THE BLOG

The Biggest Misconceptions of Anxiety Disorders

29/07/2015 15:15 BST | Updated 27/07/2016 10:59 BST

Anxiety is kind of like that friend who you know has your best interests but is actually REALLY clingy and slightly obsessive.

Anxiety is a natural emotional response to anything that our brain deems as being dangerous. Referred to as the 'fight or flight' response, it was most useful back in the stone ages to prevent yourself becoming lunch for a hungry creature double your size. Hormones, such as adrenaline, would prepare you physically to fight the creature or do a runner!

In turn this would make you feel more alert and ready your muscles for a WWE style smack down or a Mo Farah run, which inevitably would lead to you becoming a human kebab! Thankfully, we don't have to worry as much about creatures trying to feast upon us now days. But these reactions to potentially dangerous situations are still prevalent and sometimes for good reasons.

Without anxiety, we would literally all live our lives like members of the Jack Ass team. As an emotion, it allows us to approach situations with a level headed outlook.

'Hey Bob, should I dangle my legs off this really tall cliff for the lol's?'

'Hmm, not to sure about that Jim...Sounds dangerous to me'

'What's the worst that could happen?'

'Well, you could slip and fall down the cliff to your death Jim'

'Yeah, that's true Bob, better not try that then'

(In this situation, Bob is anxiety)

Anxiety will cause feelings of unease and fearfulness in many life situations from school exams and job interviews to illnesses or breakups.

But for many people, these feelings will only be present during a small and reasonable length of time. These are normal emotional reactions that every person will and should feel.

An anxiety disorder refers to an exaggerated and prolonged response that affects an individual's everyday life. It's often hard for people to differentiate between suffering from an anxiety disorder or just undergoing a normal anxiety response because anxiety is such a common emotion.

But the two are very different.

There are many misconceptions about anxiety disorders and here are a few of the most common.

Only weak people get anxiety disorders.

You can be the strongest person in the world and still be struck down with an anxiety disorder. In all fairness, it's usually the strongest and most confident people who suffer from anxiety disorders because they hide their emotions away. It's a bit like kids films where someone would keep putting stuff under their bed and pretending it wasn't there until the bed touched the bedroom ceiling.

People who suffer with mental health problems are often ashamed. Society has lead us to believe we have to put a smile on our faces all the time and pretend to be something we are not. This leads to high levels of stress, which will eventually lead to anxiety disorders. At this point, people are often left confused. 'Oh I never knew so and so was having such a hard time! I thought they were really strong'.

People deal with situations in very different ways. We don't always know people's stories or what their lives are truly like. Try not to judge.

Only people with anxiety disorders have panic attacks

Panic attacks are a common symptom of high anxiety but are not always prominent with anxiety disorders. Specifically, anxiety disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder are more commonly diagnosed due to other less obvious symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite and obsessive thoughts.

Panic attacks are a physical reaction to anxiety and regular panic attacks will usually lead to a diagnosis of Panic Disorder (an anxiety disorder which consists of excessive panic attacks). But as stated, they are not always a symptom of an anxiety disorder and a panic attack can happen with or without mental health problems being present (such as the first time someone performs on a stage).

Anxiety Disorders can only be treated with medication

Medication should always be a last resort when it comes to anxiety but you should always decide what works best for you. In the short term, anti-anxiety medication can help you to obtain a better mindset in order to use other techniques.

However, there are lots of alternative techniques that can be used to get on top of an anxiety disorder and medication will often have it's own side effects which should always be discussed in length with your GP.

Medication free treatments include:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

Mindfulness Meditation

Counselling

Breathing Techniques

and Hypnosis (among others!)

You should always fight anxiety!

Anxiety isn't something you should fight against, but rather work alongside to control. When you fight anxiety, it often gets worse. Anxiety thinks it's doing you a favour because, after all, it's protecting you from 'harm'. Specific treatments such as exposure therapy will allow you to face your fears a little everyday and stay on top of your anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are not easy to deal with. They often make you feel like you're a prisoner to your own mind but getting the right help and support can allow you to do all the things you love and not feel as though your anxiety disorder defines you. You should never feel alone as 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives.

Keep strong!