The four anxiety myths keeping you stuck in anxiety
There are 4 myths around anxiety that may be keeping you stuck.
Do any of these sound like things you believe around anxiety?
1. You need to understand the origins of your anxiety
Just because analysing your past is interesting, doesn’t mean it’s helpful.
The initial cause of your anxiety is rarely the maintaining cause of your anxiety.
For example: Let’s say you can trace your anxiety back to your parents’ difficult divorce when you were 6 years old. That may have been the event that triggered or set in motion your anxiety. But your parent’s divorce is not causing your anxiety right now as an adult.
Your anxiety is being caused by your habits in the present—chronic worry, for example, or obsessive reassurance-seeking. And until you address those maintaining causes, your anxiety will continue.
So, by all means explore and process the origins of your anxiety in the past. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that this exploration will address what’s causing your anxiety in the present.
2. Anxiety is dangerous
Just because something feels bad, doesn’t mean it is bad.
For example: Muscle soreness after a good gym workout feels bad but it’s actually a good thing—it means your muscles are getting stronger. Well, anxiety falls into the same category as muscle soreness—it feels bad but isn’t actually dangerous, as in dangerous to your health.
Anxiety is just a form of inaccurate or misguided fear. It’s your brain sounding the alarm system, when there isn’t actually a problem. And like all uncomfortable emotions, while sometimes painful and scary, fear and anxiety themselves can’t hurt you directly.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t indirect and long-term risks associated with anxiety. Over time, anxiety can lead to chronic stress, for example, which is associated with a variety of poor outcomes.
But here’s the myth about anxiety you need to know:
When you worry about anxiety, you teach your brain to believe (incorrectly) that anxiety is dangerous, which only makes you more anxious!
3. Anxiety is a weakness
A lot of people are led to believe that feeling anxious is a sign of weakness:
- As a child, maybe your parents criticised you whenever you mentioned feeling afraid (or anxious).
- Maybe you watched someone else who was nervous and afraid be shamed for it—like one parent who was constantly being mocked for their worry or fear by the other parent.
Whatever the origins of this belief, it can be surprisingly difficult to shake. While many people can acknowledge intellectually that feeling anxious isn’t a sign of weakness, they still feel that way, especially in the moment.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say you just gave a presentation at work. But you got really anxious at one point in the presentation because you mixed up some information. As a result, you spend the rest of the day ruminating and worrying about it, sending it round and round in your brain:
- That was really stupid that I mixed those clients up and then got so confused.
- I can’t believe I got so flustered… Why can’t I be more confident like the rest of them?!
- I’m sure they think I’m stupid now because that’s the second time in a week I’ve been anxious in front of the team.
Even though intellectually, you wouldn’t say that anxiety is weakness, your self-talk in the moment tells you otherwise. And critically, if that’s how you respond to anxiety—with lots of worry and negative self-talk—that’s what your brain is going to continue to believe.
4. Anxiety is just something you’re born with
One of the most common things I hear from people who want to stop feeling anxious is that they’re afraid it’ll never change because that’s just who they are…….
- I want to be less anxious but maybe that’s just how I’m wired?
- My grandmother was anxious, my mother was anxious, maybe I’m just born anxious too?
- I’ve always been an anxious person. I probably just have the anxious gene.
There is no anxiety gene that determines who will struggle with anxiety and who won’t. It has more to do with how your personality traits interact with early experiences—nobody pops out of the womb worrying and fearful!
Anxiety comes from learning and experience. Either through copying parents at an early age, or we develop certain habits like worry and avoidance that lead to long-term anxiety.
The good news is that what is learned can be unlearned. And no matter what happened in your past to create the habits of anxiety, it’s always possible to build new habits in the present.
For a complete step by step way to change the habits of anxiety, let the Fearless Female anxiety fix workbook guide you through everything you need to overcome anxiety, for good.