There is a lack of understanding when it comes to anxiety. Common stereotypes are enabling mental health stigma.
While dealing with a mental disability, which includes the debilitating symptoms of anxiety, I have learned how common stereotypes govern how I’m viewed. It’s not just about calling people “crazy” or labeling them as dangerous. Sometimes these stereotypes are hidden behind misconceptions about the sufferer’s personality.
Characteristics seem to represent who we are as individuals. Many of us use indicators like smiles, grimaces, and jerks as indicators of certain conditions or attitudes. But these little things can be deceiving. What you see may not be the whole story.
Common stereotypes and misconceptions of anxiety
With anxiety, there are several noticeable traits. Anxious people are sometimes quiet, sometimes loud and sometimes they are a mixture of the two.
There are 9 common stereotypes formed by what you see. Pay attention and try not to label these individuals based on your first or even second impression.
After all, seeking help for these issues are sometimes halted because of negative stigma. It takes time and patience to understand anxiety and help those who are suffering.
We’re not “snobby”
No, we’re not conceited or snobby, we don’t think we’re better than other people. When you see us, we may appear to be choosey of our friends and associations, and this is because we are frightened of getting hurt or rejected. Our anxiety forces us to be picky when it comes to socializing with other people. You know, sometimes we even prefer to be alone.
A common misconception is that those with anxiety will refuse to make friends with anyone below their social class, and this is just not true. I have anxiety, and yes, I am picky about who I “hang out” with, but I am far from being snobby and unreachable. In fact, I have friends in all walks of life.
We’re not attention seekers
This common stereotype is one that hurts me to the core. I will tell you like I have told others hundreds of times before, those with anxiety do not crave attention. It’s quite the opposite really, we try our hardest to get away from too much attention. We hate the hustle and bustle of large crowds, we hate the questions from our friends and we really can’t stand long lines at the supermarket.
Saying that we want attention is saying that we go through hell just to get a rise out of you. That’s kind of sick if you think about it. We are not, nor will ever be attention hogs, so cut the self-righteous assumptions.
Neither are we lazy
Now, you might not associate laziness with anxiety, that might be those depression symptoms that you’ve always heard about. No matter, either way, those who suffer from depression or anxiety are not lazy people. We have suffered more insults, especially from spouses and family members about how lazy we are, how we won’t get a job or we won’t clean the house.
Maybe, just maybe we are doing the best we can. I will tell you this, my anxiety gets so bad sometimes that I have to “shut down”, this is when I have to stop what I’m doing, lay down and sleep. It is the only way to stop the influx of information from bombarding my mind. It hurts to know that a common stereotype about mental illness is laziness. If only life were that easy for us.
We aren’t drama queens either
It may seem like we complain quite a bit, and maybe we do. Our anxiety fuels this unending resolution processing. In other words, our brain is always looking for flaws and finding a way to fix them. If we notice that you are doing something wrong, we are quick to let you know in order to remedy the situation.
We’re not trying to be overly dramatic about the situation, we just know that in order to get things done, we must be blunt and loud enough to get our point across. Now, I am not defending rude behavior, but I am defending those who suffer from the nagging need to address conflict. It’s not about drama, it’s about getting to the point.
We are not weak
Although it may appear that we are mentally weak individuals, we are stronger than you think. Maybe this common stereotype grew from watching us cry, or watching our hands shake as a result of overwhelming stress. Don’t be fooled by this symptom of anxiety. We are more than capable of putting ourselves back together and facing our problems once more.
Don’t get it twisted, we are far from weak people. It may just be that we have dealt with so much ignorance that we’ve been strong for way too long. Heard that before, haven’t you?
We are not unreachable
Although at times, it may seem like we will never listen, that’s not true. Even when we are fighting back, acting as though we refuse to see things your way, we are silently weighing your side of the story. During panic attacks, we hear the words you say to us, we feel your consolations and we try to reconcile them with our disturbed thoughts. When you think we are far too gone, we are just analyzing each word you say, and trying to make sense of our predicament simultaneously.
Please don’t give up on us and please do away with this common stereotype that says, “They are far too gone to be helped.” This is never true about anyone who suffers from anxiety. You may be surprised by the effect your loving words have on our minds.
We’re not always negative
Although this disease makes us complain and stress negative standpoints, we fight for positivity in our lives. You have no idea how hard it is for us to see the brighter side of any given situation, but we can. We don’t always shake and cry in the corner, you know. Sometimes, we enjoy a walk in the park, a movie or a good book, just like others do. We love the positive aspects of our lives and actually try our hardest to not be negative.
We are not “dumb”
On the contrary, those who suffer from anxiety are some of the most intelligent people. The brain of the anxious is full of all sorts of rationalizations, ruminations, and ideas. The biggest problem involved here is the inability to organize these thoughts. This may be the root of the common stereotype that the victims of anxiety are disabled in intellect.
And finally, we are not self-absorbed
I can’t stop thinking about being called self-absorbed. A former friend said that everything had to be about me, all the time. She said that I always talked about my life and my goals. Her view of me was horrible, and it made me want to hide under a rock. I thought about what she said for a long time, I tried to train myself to act differently according to her beliefs, but I found it increasingly hard to change.
Now that I look back at the situation and see her for who she really was, I understand her misconception. I had moved out on my own for the first time in my life, and my confidence was growing. Since she had other ulterior motivations, I could see her jealousy. As a sufferer of anxiety, I was actually making progress towards self-actualization, and this was intimidating.
But because of my anxiety, this newfound love of myself seemed a bit conceited. It wasn’t my intention and I knew that. A common stereotype of those who suffer from anxiety is that they are so absorbed in their own lives that they barely notice the needs of others. Most of the time, this is not true at all.
What does this mean for us?
Listen, there are common stereotypes but you are far from common. What you are is highly misunderstood. I challenge you today to stand in the face adversity. While rumors fly left and right about who you are and what you stand for, you hold fast!
Remember that your character is more important than what they say about you. In the end, what truly matters is how you lived and how you loved. What you know will be your indicator of who you truly are. Never let common stereotypes decide your fate and always be prepared to fight the stigma.
From one to another, I support you!