8 Myths About Anxiety

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on September 26, 2021
  • Problematic Night
    Anxiety disorder is a medical condition.
    Everyone has some anxiety. It's a normal reaction to stress and danger. Anxiety can be the warning you need to take action. But, sometimes anxiety becomes overwhelming and starts to interfere with everyday life. When anxiety is this strong, it becomes a disorder and needs treatment. You might think avoiding stress would be the best approach or that anxiety is just a personality defect. Those are some of the myths that can make anxiety worse. Replacing myths with anxiety facts is key to getting help and feeling better.
  • Stressed woman rubbing her forehead at laptop
    Myth 1: You can control anxiety on your own.
    If you have an anxiety disorder, trying to control it on your own can be hard. It also may not work. Some "home remedies"—like snapping a rubber band on your wrist to control anxious thoughts—don't work or can backfire. Trying to block or bury anxious thoughts often makes them worse or more frequent. Anxiety disorder is a real and serious medical condition like heart disease or diabetes. Ignoring severe anxiety symptoms like fear, panic, restlessness or worry can be very dangerous.
  • people sitting in circle during support group
    Myth 2: You just need to avoid anxiety.
    It's true it helps to avoid stressful situations that can lead to anxiety. But this is not enough if you have an anxiety disorder. Avoiding stress at all costs might even make your anxiety worse. Also, anxiety symptoms can occur even when you're not stressed or in danger. Instead, you need to learn how to deal with anxiety. This skill is an important part of getting better. One effective anxiety treatment is a type of talk therapy called exposure therapy. You learn to face your fears and even take on activities that trigger anxiety.
  • Young man in blanket
    Myth 3: Severe anxiety means panic attacks.
    Some people with anxiety disorder have panic attacks. This type of anxiety is called panic disorder. There are other types of anxiety disorders with different symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder causes worry, restlessness, tiredness, tension and irritability. With social anxiety disorder, you experience intense fear and anxiety when you are with people. Phobias are anxiety disorders caused by extreme and unreasonable fears. Fear of separation and fear of being outside are two examples of phobias.
  • Woman frowning with head in hands
    Myth 4: Severe anxiety happens to worrywarts
    Anxiety disorder is not a personality problem. About three of every 10 people experience anxiety at some time during their lives. Researchers are trying to learn the exact cause of anxiety disorder. They know you may be at higher risk if you have a family history of anxiety or a past history of severe stress. Women are more likely than men to have anxiety disorder. Hormones also might be involved. Some people with anxiety disorder have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Medicines in hand
    Myth 5: Steer clear of anti-anxiety drugs.
    You might have heard that medications for treating anxiety are addictive or don’t really help. The truth is medication can be an important part of treatment. A drug won't cure anxiety disorder, but the right one can help get your symptoms under control early in your treatment. Medications for anxiety include antidepressants, beta-blockers and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are the only anxiety medications that may be addictive. That's why doctors prescribe them only for short periods.
  • patient-in-therapy-session
    Myth 6: Medications are the only treatment for severe anxiety.
    Medications are not the only treatment. In fact, sometimes they are not even the best treatment. That’s another reason why your doctor may only recommend taking an anti-anxiety drug only for a short time. To get anxiety under control long term, you need to change the way you react. This is where talk therapy—or psychotherapy—may be more effective than medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of talk therapy. With CBT, you learn different ways to react and respond to anxiety. Meditation and exposure therapy can be helpful, too.
  • woman at desk with neck pain
    Myth 7: Anxiety symptoms are a mental thing.
    Restlessness, confusion, worry and fear are all symptoms of anxiety. But, anxiety can also cause physical symptoms. These can include muscle tension, sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, choking, nausea, and trembling. If you've had these physical symptoms, you know that anxiety disorder is not all in your head. The combination of physical and mental symptoms can make life especially hard at home and at work.
  • serene woman sitting outside in field
    Myth 8: Anxiety lasts for a lifetime.
    This is another dangerous myth about anxiety. Many people assume they have to live with it and never seek treatment. But, anxiety disorder is a treatable disease and most people do get better with treatment. No single treatment fits everyone, though. You'll need to work with your healthcare providers to find what works best for you. The fact is you don’t have to live with severe, disabling anxiety.
8 Myths About Anxiety

About The Author

  1. Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Myths-Conceptions About Anxiety. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/myth-conceptions
  3. Treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment
  4. Understanding the Facts. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety
  5. What Are Anxiety Disorders? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders
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Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 26
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.