Falling sick or being immobilized by any external agents produces visible symptoms. You do not need to explain your illness to others when afflicted with these health problems. If you cough and sneeze, it means you have got cold or flu. Similarly, rashes indicate an allergic reaction, and a sprain or a broken leg also point at an obvious condition.
Certain mental disorders also show visible symptoms. For instance, one can get the sight of patients with untreated manic and schizophrenic conditions by visiting a depressed neighborhood or shelter. But, anxiety is a little harder for others to see, and thus, understand.
A number of people simply dismiss anxiety as a means to seek attention. They also refer to it as a bad attitude or a strange, annoying behavior. However, it is not so. The anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that can be every bit as debilitating and hindering participation in daily life as other serious diseases. Even people with anxiety disorders might have misconceptions about their own conditions. The following points provide clarifications about this mental condition:
- Anxiety is a serious problem: Anxiety can be a symptom, or a cause, of other serious conditions such as substance abuse and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that about 20 percent of Americans who have anxiety disorder also have alcohol or substance abuse problem.
- People with anxiety disorder drink to calm down: Drinking as a means to avoid or deal with underlying problems is dangerous. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry involving 35,000 American adults reported that 13 percent of people who had used alcohol or drugs in the past year did so to reduce anxiety, fear or panic.
- Natural worriers or neurotics may not have anxiety: It is not right to say that some people tend to worry more, which is a normal behavior. Therapy is a tool that teaches someone with anxiety how to re-evaluate his or her thoughts and environment while reducing worry and stress.
- Pills can help calm down people with anxiety: Antidepressant medicines, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, are not addictive, but benzodiazepines certainly are. Benzos such as Valium and Klonopin can work in the short term, but their long-term use can create increased tolerance and addiction. An alternative to drugs is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT is a therapy focused on identifying and understanding sources of anxiety and changing the way patients think about themselves. It has a success rate equal to or better than drug regimens.
- Avoiding things that cause anxiety can help cope with it: Anxiety cannot be controlled by avoiding things that trigger the condition. Anxiety is not always clear-cut. Moreover, avoiding or confronting one’s stressors can itself cause stress by making a person feel helpless and fragile. “Avoidance is not a good strategy,” said David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, to the Huffington Post. “The more you deal with things that stress you out, the more mastery you have over them.” As the ADAA says, thoughts that we resist, persist.
- Anxiety is not always rooted in past trauma: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder, but not all anxiety disorders are PTSD. Personality, brain chemistry, as well as genetics play a role in how anxiety develops. The ADAA recommends treatment for anxiety, which focuses on “here” and “now”.
- Exercise, diet and lifestyle help people avoid anxiety: Healthy living is an excellent idea and can reduce stress and help people better manage their disorders. But only diet and exercise cannot get to the root of problems that drive anxiety. People living with anxiety sometimes need to face their fears, learn new skills to deal with anxiety, develop greater tolerances for certain situations and change their perspectives.
Finally, people with anxiety need support from those around them. Support can help people with anxiety move past their fears and doubts. Reassuring is fine, but consoling can become compulsive when it stops a person from facing the source of his or her anxiety.
The Anxiety Treatment Centers of California offers a wide variety of resources on anxiety and related disorders as well as referrals to treatment. If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety issues, please contact us either via an online chat or at 855-972-9459. The journey to a happier, healthier life can start now.