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Monday, May 08, 2017

Let’s Clear Up 3 Common Misconceptions About Anxiety

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million adults in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder. Each case of anxiety has unique causes and can be associated with other related illnesses – such as sleep or eating disorders, chronic pain and substance abuse.

From the outside, the symptoms of anxiety may look like nothing more than senseless stress or worry. Many people who are battling an anxiety disorder, however, know how impairing it can be.

There are all too many myths associated with anxiety disorders. Allowing anxiety to go unchecked can lead to harmful stigma, preventing those with a disorder from seeking help. If left untreated, some forms of anxiety can lead to other issues, such as depression and substance abuse.

Let’s take a look at three common misconceptions about anxiety and why they are inaccurate.

Myth: Anxiety Always Stems from Past Experiences 

Although a challenging childhood can be related to anxiety, the two circumstances do not always go hand in hand. Even people with fond memories of childhood can develop anxiety in their adult years. People with anxiety that does not stem from childhood can encounter further issues when forced to search for a problem that simply is not there.

Anxiety Can Be Caused by Many Factors 

It is often assumed that someone with an anxiety disorder suffered a traumatic experience in the past that he or she did not properly deal with. Most anxiety disorders are more general in nature. While certain fears and phobias do exist, in most cases, past trauma is not the root cause.

Myth: Anxious People Should Avoid Whatever Causes Anxiety 

Avoiding stressful situations is simply not possible. Anxiety has evolutionary benefits to help us focus in an emergency and power through tough situations. Not every stressful situation will cause anxiety for someone with the disorder, and experiencing little bits of anxiety at a time can actually help reduce fear of a certain situation.

Avoiding Situations Can Reinforce Fear 

By running away from situations known to cause stress, a separation is created between the feared encounters and the person with anxiety. This separation will grow every time the situation is purposely avoided, and the fear will grow with it. Rather than easing the anxiety, evasion can remind the anxious person of their fears, and he or she may begin to form a weak self-image as a result.

Myth: Anxious People Should Turn to Substances to Ease Their Symptoms 

To some, anxiety disorders are considered harmless, so those suffering from the condition may not seek professional treatment. This behavior can lead to self-medicating and eventually a dependence on alcohol. For many people, having a drink or two can help “take the edge off,” but for someone with anxiety, it can be an unhealthy escape.

Self-medicating is a way of avoiding the disorder rather than confronting it. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable with therapy and other non-invasive methods, so turning to substances should not be an option.

Substances Are Habit-Forming 

People with anxiety disorders are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to smoke than their peers. Likewise, they are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol. These substances may temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, but they can have debilitating long-term effects that make the mental illness much worse.

Don’t Shy Away from Anxiety Disorder Treatment 

Only one-third of the people suffering from an anxiety disorder in the United States receive proper treatment. Recent research has shown that community acceptance can greatly reduce the negative impacts of anxiety. By debunking the common myths associated with this group of disorders, we hope to help those with anxiety – and their families – to reach out and ask for help.

To learn even more about anxiety disorders, visit the website for Maryland Recovery, a prestigious substance abuse and social anxiety disorder treatment center based less than an hour northeast of Baltimore.

This is a guest blog entry.

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