The 7 Biggest Misconceptions About Treating Anxiety, According To Therapists
If you're someone who has anxiety, deciding what path you want to take for treatment can be overwhelming. Between therapy, medications, and different holistic options, you might feel lost about which choices are best for you. Plus, it doesn't make it any easier that there are so many misconceptions about treating anxiety. But the more you know about what's actually true when it comes to managing your symptoms, the better choices you can make for yourself and the more likely you are to feel better each day.
Anxiety is characterized as an intense and persistent fear or worry about perceived or real life situations. "Some degree of anxiety or worry is normal, but once the thoughts and feelings become excessive and intrusive in ones life where a person is worried for most days of the week for a period of six months or more, we see that as an anxiety disorder that deserves treatment," clinical therapist Alison Kramme, MA, LCPC, tells Bustle. "Individuals enter treatment with the hope of getting rid of their anxiety."
Not everyone benefits from the same type of treatment, but there are many myths floating around that can get in the way of people managing their anxiety. Here are the seven biggest misconceptions about treating anxiety, according to therapists.
1. You Need To Get Rid Of Anxiety Completely
Not all anxiety is bad and you don't need to get rid of it completely. Anxiety is necessary in dangerous situations. It can serve a purpose and it gives you an opportunity to check in with your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. "Even though it's absolutely possible to minimize our anxiety or even be relieved from it completely, there's no guarantee that at another part of our life it may not return," therapist Katie Krimer MA, LCSW, tells Bustle. "People who chronically suffer from anxiety, even with excellent treatment. will still experience anxiety from time to time."
2. Resisting Your Feelings Will Make It Go Away
A common misconception that people have is that if they try to get rid of their anxiety, then it will go away. But in reality, this can make your anxiety worse. "When a person has a panic attack, rather than struggling with the sensations [...] they can learn to accept the panic as it is happening," licensed clinical psychologist Dawn M. Raffa, Ph.D, tells Bustle. "If we accept our anxiety and stop struggling against or resisting it, we can learn to live a valued life along with anxiety."
3. You Can Turn Off Anxiety
Another misconception about anxiety is that you choose whether or not you are anxious. "People who suffer from anxiety cannot just turn it off or stop thinking their anxious, nervous thoughts," therapist Gina Marie Guarino, LMHC, tells Bustle. "Anxiety is an oppressive feeling that takes a toll on a person's mental health, emotional health, and physical health. It cannot be turned off, and it is not easy for an anxious person to rationalize or talk the anxiety down. It takes time and practice to learn how to cope with anxiety."
4. You Have To Take Medication
Medication, when prescribed by a provider who understands anxiety, can be extremely helpful. That being said, it's not the only option. "Managing anxiety is a long-term (often lifelong) process of learning and then practicing strategies for changing the way you think and behave," therapist Kayce Hodos, LPC, NCC, tells Bustle. "Seeing a therapist regularly can help you with this part, as well as taking care of yourself."
5. You're Not Able To Meditate
Many people fear meditation, feeling like they won't be able to do it. But don't let frustration get in the way. "Many people believe this but it can be very effective at only a few minutes a day," psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, M.D., tells Bustle. "The Relaxation Response from Herb Benson at Harvard is very effective. Do this for five to ten minutes a day, and it can help lower anxiety."
6. Your Parents Are Anxious, So You're Just That Way Too
Many people view being anxious as just a personality trait you have to deal with. "Although you may need to continuously work on managing your anxiety symptoms throughout your life, you do not have to give up just because it seems to run in your family," Hodos says. "Changing the way you think about your anxiety is the first step. It isn't a curse passed down by your parents. It is a biological function that gets a little out of whack for many people, but you can learn to manage it."
7. You'll Spend The Rest Of Your Life In Therapy
Many people with anxiety fear that they will have to spend the rest of their life in therapy. Although there is nothing wrong with going to therapy your whole life, if that's not something you want, you aren't required to do that.
"One of the primary goals of treatment is to accomplish a reduction in your anxiety and give you the skills you need to continue that progress on your own," therapist Daniel Olavarria, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Although many people find long-term therapy to be very helpful, it is also very common for people to 'graduate' from therapy after six months or so. When my clients complete treatment, I encourage them to keep in mind that returning to therapy for 'tune up' sessions is an option for them to keep in mind throughout their lives."
Each person requires their own unique way of tackling their anxiety, but don't let these misconceptions get in the way of working to manage it.