1. Anxiety disorders are not that common.
The truth is that anxiety disorders are experienced by many people, with about 18% of American adults suffering in a given year and about 29% of people struggling with anxiety at some point in their lifetime. With an average age of onset of 11 years of age, and a majority of people (about 60%) not receiving treatment in a given year, it is likely that you or someone close to you is struggling with anxiety.
2. Anxiety isn’t a “real” illness OR people can just snap out of it or just learn to relax.
Anxiety disorders often require treatment and seldom improve on their own. Luckily, treatment is available. Anxiety can be treated through counseling and/or medication. Though talk therapy alone has been shown to be sufficient for the treatment of anxiety, it is not uncommon for someone to receive treatment through a combination of medication and talk therapy. For some, medication can be used to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety in the short-term while talk therapy will address the underlying cause(s).
3. Counseling will take forever, at least several years.
While the duration of counseling varies from person to person based on a variety of factors, most clients will begin to see their symptoms improve after a few sessions. Many will see a dramatic change in as little as 6-8 weeks. Considering the average person will struggle with anxiety for an average of 8-10 years before seeking treatment, 2-3 months is a drop in the pale for a chance to change their lives for the better.
4. My anxiety will go away if I just avoid all the situations in which it is triggered.
Not only is this impossible, it simply is not the case. For many who struggle with anxiety, avoiding triggers actually exacerbates their symptoms as the anxiety tends to leach into other areas. Someone who initially has a fear of driving may rely on public transportation, but that begins to not feel safe either. They then begin to walk everywhere which severely limits their ability to do things as they are always close to home. Slowly, they begin to think that they are safest just being at home… In counseling, we often use exposure therapy to confront fears and phobias. This means intentionally putting yourself in situations to confront one’s fears. In combination with teaching strategies for managing the symptoms of the anxiety such as breathing exercises and other forms of relaxation, this is a proven method for overcoming debilitating fear.
5. If I have a panic attack, I might lose control or pass out.
While many who suffer from Panic Disorder feel as though their next panic attack could be fatal, this fortunately is not true. Some believe that a panic attack could lead them to passing out. When someone passes out, it is most likely due to a drop in blood pressure; having a panic attack slightly raises blood pressure, so it is unlikely that one would pass out while having one. This often does not help to diminish the fear in those that struggle with panic attacks, so seeking help from a qualified mental health professional is advised.
6. I can just carry around a brown paper bag or have a cocktail to take the edge off.
Hollywood has done us no favors in perpetuating the brown paper bag technique for managing anxiety. The act of carrying around a brown paper bag, however, can often lead people to becoming anxious about being anxious. Imagine what happens if someone accidentally leaves home without it. It becomes a crutch, something counselors refer to as a safety behavior. The same can be said about alcohol or any other drug, prescription or otherwise, used to alleviate anxiety in the short-term- they simply are not effective for the treatment of anxiety and can often make it worse.
7. Anxiety is no big deal; we all have it.
While it is true that everyone experiences a certain amount of anxiety from time to time and that it can actually be helpful in small doses, those who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience excessive amounts of anxiety, sometimes even when a specific trigger is not present. By definition, a disorder is an illness that impacts one’s way of life, meaning that it can adversely affect one’s ability to enjoy life or fulfill obligations.
The truth is that anxiety affects millions of people each year and that while treatment is available, people often encounter barriers such as limited access, limited financial resources, or stigma. If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, give me a call. Reduced fee sessions are available on a limited basis. If for some reason I am unable to assist you, I will work hard to find someone who can.