Science has come a long way toward diagnosing, treating and helping people with mental health disorders. Even so, anxiety disorder myths live on. Furthermore, mental health professionals and the pharmaceutical industry are largely responsible for this commonality. There are enough of these myths to fill a book, but here are five of the most common.
Anxiety Disorder Myths – A Chemical Imbalance Causes Anxiety
Anxiety disorder myths like this one have been around for decades. But, independent research has proved once and for all that anxiety disorder isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Furthermore, medications used to treat this ‘imbalance’ were found to be mostly ineffective. In 2011, the chemical imbalance cause for mental illness was put to rest by Dr. Ronald Pies, the editor-in-chief emeritus of the Psychiatric Times.
“…Patients have been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and there is no real conception of what a correct chemical imbalance would look like…Yet conclusions such as ‘depression is a biochemical imbalance’ are created out of nothing more than semantics and the wishful thinking of scientists/psychiatrists and a public that will believe anything now that has the stamp of approval of medical science” (Psychiatrist David Kaiser of Northwestern University Hospital, 1996).
“A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found” (Psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School).
“I spent the first several years of my career doing full-time research on brain serotonin metabolism, but I never saw any convincing research that any psychiatric disorder, including depression, results from a deficiency of brain serotonin” (Psychiatrist David Burns, who conducted award-winning serotonin research in the 1970s).
You Can Cure Anxiety Disorder With a ‘Remedy’ or ‘Quick-Fix’
A variety of things cause anxiety disorder, and the effect on the body can be vast and long-term. Once anxiety disorder has reached or exceeded the level of moderate, there is no quick way or magic solution to ‘curing’ anxiety disorder. These levels of the disorder require consistent work, perseverance and time to be successfully resolved long-term.
You can’t get a Master’s Degree overnight and with little effort; similarly, overcoming anxiety disorder requires obtaining the right information, qualified help, and doing the proper work for a period of time.
There are numerous ways to reduce, or even eliminate, symptoms of anxiety. But unless you work through and resolve the cause of your anxiety disorder, your symptoms will come back. So the notion that a quick-fix or remedy exists is an anxiety disorder myth.
You Can’t Recover From Anxiety Disorder When Taking Medication
The notion that someone can’t make progress toward recovery is another common anxiety disorder myth. But the fact is, many people can make significant progress toward this goal while taking an antidepressant or antianxiety medication.
To overcome problematic and long-term anxiety disorder a person must achieve the task of addressing and resolving the cause of the anxious behavior. Education, therapy, and the application of new coping skills are all part of this process. This is all possible while taking medication.
Anxiety Disorder is a Biological Problem of the Brain
“This myth came about because some doctors and mental health professionals suggested that MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans showed abnormal brain patterns, which they speculated was an indication that the brain was causing problems with anxiety.”
This theory is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the theory itself was based on the misinterpretation of MRI and fMRI scans. The point is, MRI and fMRI scans can only confirm the presence of electrical activity, blood flow, and oxygen utilization in the brain. Alone, MRI’s and fMRI’s cannot determine what is causal and what is an effect. Those conclusions require interpretation.
While these scans can see patterns, they can’t show why a person thinks the way he or she does. And thinking in a particular manner causes the brain to ‘light up’ in certain areas and not others. Therefore, the brain patterns are based on a person’s behavior and are not an indication of a biological problem. As Dr. Burns states, “If you’re feeling sad, your brain may show one pattern; if you’re feeling happy or excited, it may show another.”
You Can Overcome Anxiety Disorder With Only a Few Therapy Sessions
This is a myth that has caused many people to stop therapy that would have proven successful and beneficial long-term. While therapy can be beneficial short-term, it often yields more significant positive results when applied over a more extended period of time. Moreover, it’s unrealistic to think that an individual would be able to identify and successfully address the multiple underlying causes of anxiety disorder in only a few therapy sessions.
Therapy encompasses learning a variety of new information and implementing new coping skills in place of bad ones; it would be impossible to recreate the positive results of long-term therapy in just a few sessions. Therapy is a long-term approach to mental health recovery, not a quick-fix.
There are a great many more anxiety disorder myths, as well as myths surrounding mental health as a whole. However, a wealth of knowledge exists about anxiety disorder, and much of that knowledge discredits the common myths and misconceptions many people still have. Separating myth from fact is merely a matter of learning more on the topic.