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Unravelling the Myths about Anxiety Disorders

Dr. Laura Tanzini

At some point, everyone experiences anxiety. For people suffering from an anxiety disorder, it’s all too common. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths surrounding anxiety disorders, and it can be difficult to sort through the mess to get at the truth. The truth behind anxiety disorders is there are many symptoms and treatment options. What works best for one patient might not work as well for another, but diagnoses and treatment are still needed.

Panic Attacks

A panic attack is what most people imagine when they think of anxiety disorders. Some people seem to believe that an anxiety order isn’t real unless the person has panic attacks. In reality, 35-50% of adults will experience a panic attack at some point in their lifetime. Of course, that doesn’t automatically mean that the person is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Around 6.8% of adults experience panic attacks frequently enough that they could meet the criteria for panic disorder.


Being shy is not the same thing as social anxiety disorder. Plenty of people are shy, but they don’t actively avoid crowds, sweat profusely when giving a presentation, or experience the persistent, excessive anxiety and discomfort associated with social anxiety disorder. It’s estimated that social anxiety disorder affects about 3% of the population. These people experience fear, humiliation, or embarrassment when faced with social situations, especially performance-based situations where they are the focal point. It can be severe enough to negatively impact their work and social lives.

Anxiety Disorders

Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are just two examples. Other examples include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from these disorders may experience a panic attack, or they may not. Each type of anxiety disorder has different symptoms, and each patient may have different stressors that trigger anxiety. Obviously, OCD and social anxiety manifest in different ways and often in different environments. The severity may vary from day-to-day or from patient-to-patient. Even if a person does experience a panic attack, it may fade for a period of time or occur several times a week. Some panic attacks are mild, while others are far more serious. Because symptoms and treatments often differ, it’s important to have professional assistance when diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatment options. Some people wrongly believe that medication is the only way to treat anxiety disorders, but medications are typically limited and provide only temporary relief. For patients, long-term solutions tend to be more involved. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses techniques to change how a patient thinks and behaves, while adjusting their attitudes, altering their beliefs, and even incorporates problem-solving skills. Exposure therapy might be used in some cases. With exposure therapy, the patient is exposed to a feared object or context, but it’s done in a controlled, safe, and simulated environment. Other methods such as meditation, visualization, support, counseling, and breathing exercises can be used to aid with anxiety management and relaxation.

Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to treating and managing anxiety. If you believe that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, you should visit an anxiety disorder treatment center and contact the professionals at Kinder in the Keys, Inc.