As many of you know, I’ve struggled with anxiety for my entire life, and I am very open and vocal about my struggle with it on this platform. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are so many misconceptions people have about anxiety, and I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on what it’s really like to live with generalized anxiety disorder. That being said, everybody who struggles with anxiety will have a different approach and journey, so please know that anxiety can be vastly different on a case-to-case basis. What I personally feel about this issue could be completely different than the thoughts and feelings of another person with anxiety.
Misconception 1: “If you have anxiety, you must have depression, too.”
While it is true that anxiety and depression can go hand in hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean it always does. Even though I struggle with anxiety and it plays a large role in my life, I have actually never really struggled with severe depression or been diagnosed with it. Of course I have gone through rough periods in my life, in general, I am able to naturally uphold a positive, cheerful, self-loving attitude. I genuinely love life and view it through an optimistic lens- I just also happen to deal with anxiety along the way.
Misconception 2: “If you eat healthy foods and meditate, your anxiety will go away.”
Improving your diet and your routines can help with anxiety, but if you have a real anxiety disorder, it’s not very likely that you can cure it just by eating more vegetables and practicing yoga. I’m not saying it’s a worthless practice, but if you suffer from severe anxiety such as myself, it takes years of therapy and even medication to maintain my health and help my anxiety become less severe. When people tell me to try exercising or drinking more water to “cure” my anxiety, I recognize the positive intent, but it is still frustrating to hear these things.
Misconception 3: “Oh, I have anxiety, too!” or something along those lines
Everybody struggles with anxiety from time to time, and it’s completely normal to do so. However, not everybody has an anxiety disorder. What differentiates normal anxiety from a serious medical condition depends on how severely it impacts the quality of your life. For example, it’s normal and expected to have anxiety before a big test or a presentation. But if your anxiety prevents you from enjoying your everyday life or if it interferes with your daily tasks and productivity, then it could qualify for an anxiety disorder. It’s important to understand that difference, because as with any mental disorder or condition, it’s common for those who really suffer to feel invalidated or one-upped.
Misconception 4: “Taking medication for anxiety can make you become addicted to it.”
There is no evidence to support the claim that SSRIs or other antidepressants can cause dependent tendencies in those who use them, so the idea that anxiety medication can become “addicting” is a huge misconception. With that being said, it is possible to become dependent on benzodiazepines- or tranquilizers, such as Ativan or Xanax. However, just because you have a prescription for either of these medications does NOT automatically mean you will become addicted to benzos. I have a prescription for Ativan which I use very responsibly, and I only take my benzos if I am having an absolute anxiety emergency and I am afraid of passing out or having a panic attack (which only happens a handful of times per year.)
And finally, Misconception 5: “Anxiety is not a real medical condition.”
Even though anxiety is an invisible illness, that does not make it any less valid or severe than any other condition.
Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions- and should be treated just as seriously as any other condition, physical or not. Additionally, anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive of disorders in the United States. If you also struggle with having an anxiety disorder, your feelings are valid, and most importantly, you are NOT alone!
I hope you found this article helpful and informative. In the midst of the political climate and the pandemic surrounding us right now, it is totally normal and valid to be feeling anxiety. Remember that it is good to feel your feelings, even if they are not always sunshiney, and there are always people out there who want to listen to you and support you.