Anxiety is a broad and widely misused term, and the experience varies from person to person. Because of this, it can be quite difficult to recognize it in ourselves and in our loved ones. How do we distinguish between normal stress, personality traits, and the deep-rooted sense of general anxiety?
Dr. Krishan Abeyatunge agrees that recognizing anxiety can be a challenge and recommends trying the following:
- Meditate for three minutes and see if you can fully relax or if the act of trying to relax induces more anxiety.
- Do some research, educate yourself about anxiety and how it manifests itself.
- Talk to a friend or trusted advisor who has experience in distinguishing anxiety from average, day-to-day stress.
- Sit with a professional to discuss your anxious feelings and your overall sense of wellness.
Common Misconceptions About Anxiety
False: Your anxiety is a character flaw.
Perhaps the most frustrating misunderstandings occur between those who struggle with anxiety and their close circle. Friends and family members may believe that anxiety-fueled behavior is simply a reflection of a person’s personality, just like honesty, friendliness or a sense of humor.
“You are not your anxiety. Anxiety is just something that happens to you,” reminds Dr. Perry.
The founder of Huddle.Care, Dr. Maggie Perry, got her doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the Loyola University of Maryland and trained at the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland. “Not everyone is taught that anxiety is related to the makeup of the brain, that it’s not necessarily a personality characteristic, even though it may feel that way after they’ve suffered for so long,” says Dr. Perry.
False: “Acceptance” is just another word for “giving up.”
Acceptance is an important step in gaining control of your anxiety, but a common misconception is that accepting your anxious feelings, rather than trying to fight them, is in itself a passive response. However, Dr. Perry says that this could not be further from the truth. “Acceptance is actually a really active stance because you’re telling yourself that the thoughts and feelings you have are actually inconsistent with what you value—they’re not true, they’re not worth acting on, they’re not dangerous to you. You can choose to accept the fact that the thoughts and feelings are there, but you’re still able to do the things you care about,” says Dr. Perry. “Over time, this will eventually teach the mind not to be worried about those things anymore, and eventually the mind will not have that sensation anymore.”