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More adults and more teenagers are experiencing clinical anxiety than ever before. As the anxiety of our country grows, it is imperative to clear up any misconceptions about anxiety.

Anxiety is something you can just turn off

It seems easy enough. Anxiety is thoughts and fears gone awry. Knowing this, anyone with anxiety should just be able to stop being anxious. The most unhelpful statement for someone with anxiety is “Calm down”. Anxiety overrides the survival system in the brain, firing off a rapid production of thoughts and fears fueled by stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. With time, practice, and lots of meditation, anxiety and anxious thoughts can be addressed and limited, but not entirely shut off.

Being anxious is just being a “worry-wart”

There is no doubt that there are people who are more anxious than others. They seem to worry the most, always be in a fluster of concerns, and cannot keep themselves straight when it comes to stress. Stress and anxiety go hand in hand as one is a symptom of the other. Chronic stress, however, is not the same as chronic anxiety. More often in anxiety, it is the anxious thoughts which create the stress. Having an anxiety disorder isn’t just being a “worry-wart”.

People with anxiety should use substances to calm down

Anxiety is one of the most globally pervasive mental health disorders and one of the most highly co-occurring mental health disorders with substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol are not treatment methods. They are, at best, coping methods, and at worst, dangerous self-defeating behaviors. Therapeutic interventions can help someone discover the root of their anxiety and develop a comprehensive, customized treatment plan for lifestyle changes to make living with anxiety easier. With a higher likelihood of developing a substance use disorder, turning to drugs and alcohol is a dangerous suggestion.

Everyone is anxious

To an extent, that is true. Everyone has the fight-or-flight survival response system in their genetic makeup. Everyone has the capacity to feel anxious about something. People experience worry, concern, and feeling nervous. Having normal anxiety is different from living with an anxiety disorder. Chronic anxiety is a physically, mentally, and spiritually taxing experience.