5 Surprising Things Most People Get Wrong About Anxiety

1. Anxiety is actually more common than you’d think.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults age 18 and up, making it the most common mental illness in the U.S.

2. Even extroverts can have it.

Malik has been a performer for years and is regularly in the public eye—but that doesn’t mean an extrovert like him can’t suffer from anxiety. “Just because people like to be social or have careers that demand public performing doesn’t mean they don’t feel anxiety,” licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D. “Anxiety…can affect anyone.”

Extroversion and introversion have to do with where we get our energy (i.e. from others or from ourselves) and aren’t necessarily tied to our comfort levels socially, Clark explains. Plus, performing solo in front of a massive crowd can stress out even the most outgoing person. “Performance anxiety is one of the most crippling kinds of anxiety and can certainly affect extroverts as well as introverts,” says Clark.

3. It’s a legitimate health issue.

Malik essentially called in sick to his concert, and experts say he has a right to just as much as if he were suffering from strep throat or pneumonia. “Anxiety is no question a health issue just like any other mental health issue,” says Clark. “It is no doubt a full-body physiological issue and, like all health issues, requires a whole-body treatment.”

4. The symptoms aren’t always obvious.

We tend to think of someone suffering from an anxiety attack as being really stressed out or excessively worried, but anxiety can manifest itself in other ways. Fatigue and restlessness are big (and less obvious) symptoms that someone is suffering from severe anxiety, Mayer says, but someone can also become hyper, angry, impulsive, or suffer from a lack of attention and concentration.

“Coupled with the mental worry, anxiety sufferers are usually exhausted, and often complain of fatigue,” Clark says. Anxiety sufferers also often struggle to sleep well—or enough—which can exacerbate their symptoms, she adds.

5. It is often treatable—so if you have anxiety, know that help is out there.

According to the ADAA, only about one-third of people suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment even though they’re highly treatable.

If you suspect that you suffer from an anxiety disorder, Mayer recommends seeing a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. Then, you can learn how to manage it with the help of a qualified therapist. “Your therapy can teach you coping mechanisms that will control your anxiety so it will not be expressed or turn into an anxiety disorder,” he says.

Clark stresses that there’s no shame in getting treatment for anxiety, and it can make a big difference: “Treatment outcomes are very positive for anxiety once people commit to reaching out for help.”

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