Myth 1. Anxiety is natural
Anxiety might be common but it isn’t natural. The fact that anxiety rates in present-day Africa and Asia are far lower than in the West points to this, as does the fact that it is rarely appears in very young children. It is arousal that is ‘natural’ and anxiety is an exaggerated, worrisome version of that. Anxiety disorders of the kind seen in psychotherapy are created when the person fuses with worry, perfectionism, self-judgment, guilt and other wrong thinking habits.
Myth 2. Worrying can be useful
While finding solutions to concerns you can do something about can be helpful worry is not useful at all. The problem with worry is that it tends to focus on catastrophes that probably will not happen, or on issues you cannot influence. Concerns, by contrast, relate to real life problems that are there right in front of you and which you can influence – meaning you can reduce the problem, find a solution, or get some help.
Myth 3. Tranquillisers are the solution for anxiety disorders
Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Librium and Xanax are only effective for a few weeks before the effects wear off. Anti-depressants such as Citalopram smother the anxiety but don’t remove the problem or its cause.
The problem with using sedatives is that they mask the symptoms without taking away the fundamental cause – which is wrong work of the mind.
Myth 4 You need to understand the cause of your anxiety in order to work with it
The only ’cause’ you need to know about is that anxiety is that it is triggered by negative thinking which, in turn, sets off the alarm system centred on the amygdala. It is not necessary to establish where the negative thoughts came from. In fact, in many cases exploring the source of the problem can worsen the anxiety. This is because dwelling on past history fosters the idea that anxiety is ‘deep-rooted’ or has ‘become part of my personality’ and is therefore difficult to remove. Plus, of course, dwelling on negative thoughts brings on the problem again.
Myth 5 Anxiety is caused by stress.
Since stress is now a meaningless term it cannot be the cause of anything. See my article on this here. The cause of stress is right there in the conscious, worrying mind; it isn’t triggered by external events.
Myth 6. Positive thinking is a solution for anxiety
Positive thinking typically involves people telling themselves half-truths like ‘I can conquer all my fears’, ‘I am a wonderful person’, or ‘I am strong/confident/invincible, etc’. The problem is that affirmations can make the problem worse if the person does not really believe in them. Thus strengthening the underlying belief that nothing can be done about anxiety. The correct approach to anxious thoughts is to defuse from them, not to try and replace them.
Myth 7. Anxiety is difficult to resolve.
Anxiety is straightforward to solve, although it may entail some hard work . The hard bit is training yourself daily to switch your attention away from it. That is why Mindfulness is an effective tool in the treatment of anxiety. I speak as someone who between the ages of 18 and 33 had anxiety most days, and panic attacks several times a month. I rarely have the problem now.