Many people who deal with anxiety, whether it be mild or severe, have had to deal with close-minded and bigoted people. Even people who do not have anxiety has dealt with these types before. Everyone who is mentally different, physically, gay, and even people who have unique choices in fashion or music. Society tends to look down upon anyone who is different. I will be addressing the issue of misunderstanding regarding anxiety, so here are the top eight myths that people without anxiety believe/think about anxiety and the people who suffer from it:
1. THEY EXPECT TO BE CATERED TO
This is one of the biggest myths. People who have anxiety may not feel comfortable eating around strangers, starting conversations, going to certain restaurants, or doing certain things in general. Others take this as needing or wanting to be catered to. However, it is the exact opposite. People who have anxiety don’t expect or want you to go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. But if they don’t feel comfortable doing something, let them be. Letting them be is not going out of your way.
2. THEY WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS
A lot of people believe “the shy person doesn’t want to be talked to” or “I’ll just upset him/her if I strike up a conversation”. These are both false. Just because people are shy does not mean they want to be avoided like the plague. If you make the effort to get to know them, they will see that you are making an effort where others do not, and they will in turn make the effort to get to know you.
3. THEY DON’T MIND/NOTICE BEING TREATED DIFFERENTLY
People with anxiety notice when you talk to everyone but them. They notice that slight flicker of annoyance in your eyes when you think they’re being anti-social. They notice it all, and they do mind. People with anxiety are usually treated like outcasts and met with annoyance. What they want is to be treated normally. If others do not treat them normally, how do others expect them to want to make the effort to get to know them? That’s not saying that they want others to expect them to be able to do social things with ease, but rather that many people without anxiety are very rude, cruel, and judgmental and treat those with anxiety like they’re no better than a piece of trash lying by the side of road. And that type of treatment is not okay; not for anyone.
4. THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND THEM
They know the world does not revolve around them, and they don’t wish it to. But if they want to go to the movie at a certain time to avoid the rush, why should that be a big deal? If they want to have a certain spot in the restaurant because it’s more secluded, who cares? Everyone has preferences with things, not just people with anxiety. Many of the people that anxiety-sufferers have come across have believed this myth, and are quite rude because of it, and yet said people would not be the type to be so rude to someone without anxiety who made the same requests. Because those with anxiety have an invisible (not physical) problem, they are brushed off as needy, annoying, selfish, and self-absorbed. This is not the case.
5. THEY’RE MAKING “I HAVE ANXIETY” UP
As mentioned in the previous myth, anxiety is not something that is physical. It resides in our heads, therefore making it invisible. Because of this, people believe it’s something that isn’t real and isn’t something that can hinder a large chunk of one’s life. Anxiety is a very real thing, and many, many people suffer from it. Being social involves so many large parts of life. It affects jobs, school, relationships, friendships, and entertainment. Do you really think making up anxiety for laughs is what they consider fun? It’s like saying people choose to be gay because they love getting constantly bashed by society. It doesn’t really make sense, does it?
6. SAYING “GET OVER IT” WILL WORK
Heads up: It doesn’t work. Saying “get over it” to someone with anxiety will show them how close-minded you really are. People with anxiety can not simply “get over it”. It takes tremendous effort to, and a lot of time. This is made easier with encouraging, motivational, and helpful people. Say “get over it” to someone with anxiety (or any invisible problem), and you will probably find yourself without that person in your life. As said in Myth #1, they don’t expect to be catered to, but that does not mean they have the ability to do things with ease that social, bubbly people in regular situations are able to do without a problem.
7. PUSHING THEM WILL MAKE THEM COME OUT OF THEIR SHELL
This goes hand-in-hand with Myth #2. Although they don’t want to be avoided like the plague, they also don’t want to be pushed, and pushed, and pushed. If they don’t want to do it, they simply will not do it. No amount of pushing will make them. Pushing them to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing will only make them not want to do it even more. This does not mean they don’t want to be encouraged. Be encouraging, but not pushy.
8. THEY USE THEIR ANXIETY AS AN EXCUSE
The ones who don’t want to change will use their anxiety as an excuse, but those who are making the effort to change are simply realizing and stating the problem. The first step to change is to acknowledge what the problem is. If they say “I couldn’t do [activity] because of my anxiety”, it’s not an excuse. What they are doing is being honest, and not letting their anxiety hinder them further by hiding behind it and/or pretending that they couldn’t do something for some other reason.
And there you have it! Many people who don’t have anxiety (I’m not referring to just getting nervous now and then) don’t seem to believe it’s a real issue. Mental problems do exist, and just because anxiety might not be on the top of the list, does not mean it isn’t there, and it does not mean it should be granted less of an understanding. If you wouldn’t harass, be rude to, judge, or hate someone who had a limb missing, someone who has autism, or anyone else who had physical and/or mental problems, then do not be that way to someone with anxiety. Imagine the world from their point of view. Be understanding, accepting, and open-minded. And that doesn’t just go for those who are shy. We as humans are on this big spinning rock together, and will be until the end. Instead of spreading hate and ignorance, make an effort to be empathetic and understanding. Kindness goes a long way for anyone, and it’s about time the world became more positive.