Anxiety Stigma

For many of you, hearing me recommend being alone while anxious may seem foreign, if not counterproductive. After all, a common suggestion for people with any mental illness is to maintain a healthy support network to get you through tough times. I’m not disagreeing with that suggestion, for I think it’s vitally important for your health. What I am suggesting is that during those periods of heightened anxiety, it may be helpful to step away from everyone and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts.
A few weeks ago, I outlined why I think American society causes anxiety. I want to revisit this topic again, but this time focus on one particular social plague: what Medium’s Gabriella Rackoff calls: "the cult of the entrepreneur."
The myth of holiday suicide is one of the most stubborn myths related to mental illness. Because it’s now officially the holiday season, I want to take this opportunity to do my part to bust the most stubborn myth. Most of you have probably heard there is a significant increase in suicides during the holiday season; however, as the title of this post suggests, this is a myth. Suicide rates are actually lower than average during the holidays, with their peaks occurring in the spring and fall. While most people probably don’t think much of the myth, dismissing it as another old wives tale tenaciously hanging on to relevance, I’m much more disturbed by it, and feel the holiday suicide myth needs to be addressed with some degree of urgency.
I’ve found that stuffed animals help with my anxiety. However, for most people, sleeping with stuffed animals is something considered appropriate only for young children. Instinctively, it does feel a bit strange to imagine an adult with an army of stuffed animals thrown about on their bed. But perhaps it’s time to condemn that instinctual judgment as inaccurate and overly bigoted –- perhaps the benefits of sleeping with stuffed animals to help with anxiety into adulthood are something we should all take seriously.
Anxiety and laziness seem unseemly because social pressure tells us it’s not okay to be lazy -- or anxious. We tend to value productivity and activity – if we don’t get as much out of the day as we can, we can be looked down upon. However, anxiety and laziness can go together, and it's okay to be lazy when you're anxious.
I’ve consigned myself to the fact that my anxiety will never go away. Part of it may be due to genetics –- another part may be due to how my brain is wired -– but another part, and one that we need to talk about more often, is that American society itself creates anxiety symptoms.
Why is it so difficult to feel sympathy for people with mental illness? Some of you may have heard the story I'm about to talk about – it gained a fair amount of traction online a few weeks ago. Regardless, I feel the need to share it again, because it so perfectly embodies our broken attitudes and inability to feel sympathy regarding mental health.
I receive a lot of negative comments and unsolicited advice as an anxiety sufferer. The average person who has experienced anxiety may think that he has some helpful comments and suggestions for you. Some anxiety management ideas may, in fact, be helpful. Other observations are simply unsupportive or condescending. For the most part, I’ve found that unsolicited comments and advice are not constructive or beneficial to me as an anxiety sufferer.
If you live with anxiety, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard a well-meaning family member or friend tell you, “Just get over it,” "Just get over anxiety." If it were that easy, no one would have anxiety because we’d all get over it and move on (‘Get Over It’ Is Unhelpful Advice for Mental Illness Sufferers). Unfortunately, the idea of just getting over it doesn’t help anxiety, and being told to do so can make it worse. Why doesn’t hearing “Just get over it,” fail to help anxiety? What can you do about it?
Anxiety awareness is important all the time, but during Mental Illness Awareness Week, a special spotlight shines on mental illness, including anxiety disorders. Such a spotlight brings light and warmth to anxiety, which is so often swept away into dark corners. Read on for information that can help increase awareness of anxiety and anxiety disorders and lessen some of the frustrations that come with a lack of understanding.