Many people believe that anxiety is no more than feeling stressed, and that depression is no more than feeling sad. These two conditions of anxiety and depression are very real, and affect the lives of millions every day. There is a huge difference between feeling anxious before a test, and feeling so stressed about life that you don’t want to get out of bed. Likewise, there’s a difference between feeling sad from time to time, and feeling a complete numbness that totally takes away your motivation to do anything. As prominent as anxiety and depression are, there are numerous misconceptions about each.
1. Anxiety is not that common.
Anxiety disorders affect around 40 million American adults. That’s 18% of the country’s population. If you see someone displaying signs of anxiety or hear someone admit to their condition, they are not just looking for attention. Anxiety is not something to joke about. It’s a very real problem, and is caused by genetics and chemical imbalances in the brain. That means that it’s not something someone can control, or get rid of.
- Eliminating or avoiding the triggers can cure anxiety.
Sometimes there doesn’t have to be any real reason at all. Eliminating triggers only works short-term. Avoiding anxious situations just delays the inevitable. Anticipatory anxiety can be worse than facing the fear and dealing with the situation.
- Having occasional anxiety means I have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are far deeper than everyday stress. It’s normal for a person to feel nervous before speaking in front of a group of people. Anxiety disorders add anxiety to tasks that most people rarely give much thought to. For example, when I attend any sort of event with my friends, whether it’s a show, a meal at the dining hall, or a meeting, I feel anxious if I have to make the decision of where to sit.
- It’s all in your head.
There are actually many physical symptoms to anxiety. Of course, the mental aspect is the most prominent, but there is far more to anxiety disorders than just that. The most common physical symptoms include racing heart rate, shortness of breath, upset stomach, sweating, tremors, twitches, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia. It’s no surprise that many people think they’re having a heart attack when they’re actually have a panic attack.
- Medication is the best/only solution.
Though medication can be quite effective, it greatly depends on the severity of the anxiety and the individual. Not all types of anxiety medications work on everyone. For example, I have been on medication for my anxiety for over three years. In that time, I have changed my dosage three times. Many of my friends who also have anxiety, and take meds are not on the same ones that I am.
- Depression is just feeling sorry for yourself, and can be controlled.
Depression is a lot deeper than feeling sorry for yourself. It can feel like a huge weight on your chest, and can spring on you for no reason. It can range from laying in bed, staring at nothing, feeling nothing to crying uncontrollably. Like anxiety, it is genetic, and not something that can be controlled. If it were controllable, depressed people wouldn’t be depressed at all.
- Depressed people should just do something to make themselves happy.
This is just about the worst advice you could give a depressed person. Depression can often involve losing interest in the things that used to make someone happy. Granted, in minor stages of depression, distractions can be extremely helpful, but not always. Telling someone that they should “cheer up,” or do something that makes them happy does nothing more than make them feeling guilty for how they feel.
- Depressed is just another word for sad.
Depression and sadness are two very different things. Crying because someone passed away is very different than how deeply depression hits you. Depression makes you feel worthless, alone, hopeless, and like no one can help.
- Telling an anxious or depressed person “there’s nothing to worry about” or “calm down” is good advice.
Telling someone with anxiety or depression that there isn’t anything to worry about will make them feel like their feelings are unjustified and that they should keep them to themselves. Bottling up their emotions can ultimately make things way worse because, when those feelings inevitably come out, things will be explosive. “Calm down” is similar. It comes across as condescending and insensitive. Someone with anxiety and depression does not need to feel like a person they’ve opened up to believes that they are lesser just because of their mental condition.
- Anxiety and depression will eventually go away.
Though there are many ways to lessen the effects of anxiety and depression, they are not something that can go away. Medication, counseling, and other coping mechanisms are extremely helpful, but they are not solutions. These mechanisms can lessen the effects of anxiety and depression and allow people to deal with them more efficiently and effectively.
No matter if you have anxiety or depression, know someone with anxiety or depression, or have no connection to them at all, it’s important to know the truth about them. There is very little an anxious or depressed person appreciates more than someone who understands what they’re going through. It’s valid to not be an expert if you aren’t dealing with it yourself, but certain triggers are very easy to avoid, and being aware of them will be very appreciated. To anyone dealing with anxiety and/or depression, it’s important to remember that it will always get better, there are people who care about you, and you are so much stronger than you think.