There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there when it comes to mental health. For many people suffering with an anxiety disorder, or for loved ones of someone with an anxiety disorder, it is important to know what’s good information and what’s incorrect.
Here are ten facts about anxiety disorders.
1. There’s a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Everybody experiences anxiety from time to time. It quite often presents itself when we are feeling scared, stressed or worried, and that’s normal anxiety. People with a true anxiety disorder experience both psychological and physiological symptoms on a regular basis, and in many cases, it can be debilitating.
2. Anxiety disorders encompass a number of psychiatric conditions. An anxiety disorder is not just excessive worry. A number of psychiatric conditions make up anxiety disorders, including: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
3. Anyone can develop an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are not just reserved for people who tend to worry a lot. Anyone can develop an anxiety disorder because there are a number of factors that come into play including environment, upbringing, genetics, and chemical imbalances in the brain.
4. Anxiety symptoms aren’t always obvious. Most people think of excessive worry and stress as symptoms of anxiety. That is true, but there are also other symptoms that you may not associate with anxiety such as racing thoughts, chest pains, difficulty breathing, irritability, loss of appetite, headaches, trouble sleeping, and increased heart rate.
5. Anxiety disorders can be managed. Many anxiety disorders bring about very unpleasant body sensations. Although they can be quite scary and uncomfortable, it is possible to learn to control them and lead a very successful and fulfilling life despite this condition.
6. Treatment should be started as soon as possible. Like any medical condition, the sooner you can start treatment for an anxiety disorder, the better. The longer it goes without getting help, the more severe your condition can become. There are many great treatment options available, including medication, therapy, alternative treatments, and self-help strategies.
7. There’s no reason to suffer. Millions of people have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. But unfortunately, many more are silently suffering. Men, in particular, have a tough time seeking treatment due to the fear of being labelled weak or seen as less of a man. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.
8. There is an upside to anxiety. For all the negative things we hear about anxiety, there is some good that comes from it. If you are experiencing anxiety, chances are you are more cautious, very compassionate, kind, a good listener, and more likely to think before you act. In fact, whether you realize it or not, many of the characteristics that you may not like about yourself make you more attractive to others.
9. Too much anxiety can affect your health. In the short term, there’s nothing dangerous about the physical sensations of anxiety. However, in the long run, if left untreated, anxiety disorders can take a toll on the body and lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, GI problems and other psychiatric conditions.
10. We must continue to erase the stigma. In recent years, anxiety and mental illness as a whole have become more accepted and discussed by society. However, mental illness is still not treated at the same level as more physical illnesses. The responsibility is on all of us to erase the stigma and be more accepting of those who struggle with their mental health.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vinay Saranga M.D. is a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry. sarangapsychiatry.com
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2019 Fissue.