Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/14/2023
What’s true and what’s hearsay when it comes to anxiety? We’ll sort out the most common anxiety myths here.
Mental health can be a tricky topic to talk about. There are numerous misconceptions about mental health disorders, and some people simply don’t want to discuss mental health concerns at all.
Take anxiety, for example. Despite being the most common mental health concern in the country — with over 40 million adults dealing with an anxiety disorder — there are still numerous myths about anxiety.
While the Internet can be a good place to find information about anxiety disorders, panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, it can also be a source of misinformation.
We’re here to set the record straight about anxiety myths and provide information on how to manage anxiety.
Anxiety myths — like anxiety itself — are fairly common. But to know what’s fact and what’s fiction, it’s best to start with some general knowledge about anxiety.
We all experience anxious feelings from time to time. When facing stressful situations, our bodies respond by going into a survival mode we call the “fight-or-flight” response. We might start to sweat, feel shaky or have a racing heart.
When the stressful situation is over — whether it’s a problem at home or an upcoming work presentation — our anxiety levels return to normal.
But when stress or anxiety levels are consistently high or you have anxious feelings all the time, it could be an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
There’s a lot of information out there about anxiety symptoms and disorders. But myths about generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders shouldn’t keep you from getting the help you need.
Below are some common myths about anxiety, along with an explanation of why they’re not true.
There are many misconceptions and myths about anxiety. We’ve listed some common anxiety myths and debunked them for you.
Anxiety can be extremely stressful and even debilitating for some people. Symptoms may interfere with daily life and activities like school and work or even become so severe that they negatively impact your quality of life.
To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, symptoms typically last for at least six months, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health, fifth edition (DSM-5). Healthcare providers may also ask you to complete certain tests or questionnaires to diagnose anxiety.
There are actually several different types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that affect your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Some common types include:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder causes excessive or persistent anxiety or worries about everyday life.
Social anxiety disorder.Social anxiety is an extreme fear of social interaction or social situations. People with social anxiety might be afraid they’ll be judged negatively in social situations.
Panic disorder. Characterized by panic attacks — sudden and unexpected feelings of intense fear, even if no danger is present — panic disorder might be mistaken for a heart attack.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).OCD is characterized by recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors to try and relieve the thoughts (compulsions). Those with OCD might repeatedly wash their hands, check things or count.
People might view anxious people as worrywarts or say they’re just making mountains out of molehills. The disbelief that anxiety is just “in your head” can cause some folks to bury their emotions and avoid talking about them with anyone.
Symptoms of anxiety can vary by the type of anxiety disorder someone has. There are some common symptoms among them, however.
While there are psychological symptoms of anxiety, the physical symptoms are very real too. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include:
Persistent fears or worries
Headaches or stomach aches
Obsessive thoughts you can’t control
Both types of symptoms may cause bigger problems in the long run if left untreated.
There may be certain situations that increase your anxiety more than others or cause temporary anxiety.
But anxiety disorders are long-term, and many people have persistent worries. And if you try to suppress your anxious thoughts and worries, they can become more frequent.
The good news is there are ways to manage anxiety symptoms and reduce worrying thoughts.
While medication might be prescribed by healthcare providers for some people, it's not the only anxiety treatment. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is also a proven treatment for managing anxiety. Research has even found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be just as or more effective than medication for most people.
Therapy for anxiety can help you reduce stress and worry by discussing what causes your anxiety and finding ways to deal with persistent thoughts. Working with a mental health professional online can help you figure out the best course of action for your symptoms.
Common medications for anxiety include:
Antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta®) or fluoxetine (Prozac®)
While antidepressants are not considered addictive, benzodiazepines can lead to increased tolerance with long-term use — which is why healthcare providers recommend them for short-term use.
Anxiety disorders aren’t always easy to identify. People may feel embarrassed to talk about their feelings, find coping strategies to hide symptoms or use excuses to avoid situations that cause anxiety.
Many symptoms of anxiety can be psychological and may not come across as a visible sign of distress.
With such a vast amount of mental health information available, identifying myths about generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders can be tricky.
Some common anxiety myths might say all anxiety is the same or that you can just “will” anxiety away. Others might claim anxiety is all in your head and that you shouldn’t use anxiety medications.
Knowing what’s true and what’s false about anxiety disorders can better help you manage your symptoms and reduce worrying thoughts or fears.
If you’d like to explore online therapy for anxiety, connect with a professional at Hers today.