The REACH Study
Misconceptions about Anxiety
Written by Karima Clement-Gbede - REACH Young Person's Community Champion
I first heard about anxiety early in my secondary school through my friends and was shocked about how many people close to me it affected. When I started A-level psychology, I was able to get a deeper understanding into what anxiety really was and how it affects people in their everyday life. To give you a clear definition, anxiety is a natural emotion that everyone experiences, but when an individual experiences a constant sense of unease and concern that interferes with their daily activities, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a common condition that a growing number of people are dealing with, I was shocked to find on CAMHs website that 40% of people do not seek medical help and suffer alone due to this.
MYTH: ‘Anxiety is something you will just grow out of’
This is a common misconception which I think can stop many young people from asking for help. I have learnt that for some people, anxiety can turn into a long-term problem and can affect people in all different ways. Young people have many day-to-day things to deal with which could contribute to stress such as school, exams and even friendships and relationships with family. These causes of stress can affect us throughout our lifetimes. Instead of hoping these stressors will go away on their own, it’s important to find positive ways of coping both in the short and long term. Many of my friends have found it useful to seek school support when they have heightened episodes of anxiety or try and focus on a recreational activity such as painting.
MYTH: ‘Anxiety is a sign of personal weakness’
Anxiety does not discriminate; I have found that anxiety affects all types of people no matter your age, race, or gender. The belief that anxiety is a sign of weakness can contribute to the stigma associated with anxiety. I believe this long-standing stigma must be eradicated, as it prevents many people from finding support or advice due to the thought of having a negative reaction. Many people I look up to such as Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez, who are all talented and powerful women, have spoken about their struggles with anxiety. I feel that it is important that these celebrities have spoken up about their anxiety as they are in the public eye and can influence people's perspectives and give people the confidence to also speak out or try and find a means to change the misconceptions about anxiety.
MYTH: Anxiety only affects women
According to Better Health, on average one fifth of men are likely to experience anxiety in some stage of their life and men are less likely to talk about their anxiety. I think many people associate anxiety with women, but anxiety affects men as well, but the symptoms can sometimes look different. Anxiety can take different forms including excessive sweating, dizziness, panic attacks and insomnia. Like female role models, many well-known male celebrities, such as Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds, and Zayn Malik have spoken out about their anxiety. I think it’s important we try to reduce the stigma associated with anxiety including gender stereotypes
MYTH: ‘Anxiety is not a real medical disorder’
This is a common myth I have heard in and around my community. Anxiety is as real as a physical disorder and can be felt in a variety of ways. For some people anxiety can cause physical symptoms that affect their sleeping and even breathing. Anxiety can influence our behaviours as well predisposing you to lose you feel more agitated or avoid certain people or places. These are not attention-getting behaviours, but physical signs of anxiety. Some people find that anxiety makes them act in different ways and at times, may not realise that their feelings or behaviours might be symptoms of anxiety.
As human beings we crave social interactions and whether you’re struggling with anxiety or not, we all can benefit from having someone to talk to. If you find that you’ve been affected by anything in this blog and would like to talk to someone, there’s many helpful organisations dedicated to supporting people struggling with their mental health. Please click here to find our list of resources.