Anxiety disorders take many forms, from social anxiety to phobias to obsessive compulsive disorder, and our understanding of them grows daily. However, modern concepts of anxiety and how we treat it also have some baggage: old-fashioned (and in some cases, ancient) beliefs about anxiety disorders continue to influence how we talk about it today. While some historical myths about anxiety are now well-known to be myths — we're all pretty clear, for instance, that women don't suffer 'hysteria' because their wombs wander around their bodies, an idea that was part of medical thinking until relatively recently — others still have sway over our conversations. And it's important to sort out why they're wrong.
Some of these myths are relatively straightforward in their inaccuracy, but others need a bit of unpacking to see why they're still around and how they continue to shape the way we think about anxiety. Data from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America shows that anxiety disorders are likely the most common mental health issue in America, affecting approximately 40 million adults, so little misconceptions can have a big impact. Next time you hear one of these tidbits in conversation, challenge them straight up, because nobody has time for that.