The Way You're Talking About Anxiety is All Wrong

Photo by Thnh Phng

We’re finally talking about anxiety, and mental health as a whole, but the problem? Most of you are saying the wrong thing.

I’ve come to this realization after seeing the countless articles on mainstream sites (who shall remain nameless) tout the latest, buzziest ways to overcome your anxiety.

But the straw that really broke the camel’s back was this headline: “This Simple Mental Hack Could Help You Overcome Anxiety.”

This seemingly innocuous headline is actually incredibly harmful. But before I get into the “why,” I think it’s important we all get on the same page when it comes to anxiety.

(If you feel pretty confident in your understanding of anxiety, feel free to skip down about three paragraphs.)

[Related: How My Emotional Support Animal Helped My Anxiety]

Often, articles will equate anxiety with stress but they are not the same thing at all (although they often go hand-in-hand). We all know what stress feels like — it’s a pretty universal human reaction.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is excessive and doesn’t necessarily correlate with specific events in your life. It’s overwhelming and can be debilitating.

There are obviously varying degrees of anxiety, but for millions, anxiety can severely interfere with their lives. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can often be very serious, lifelong disorders.

anxiety stats
Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Ok, so back to the headline: “This Simple Mental Hack Could Help You Overcome Anxiety.”

For anyone who has suffered from true anxiety, the idea of “a simple fix” is not only insulting but stigmatizing. Those with mental illness have probably already tried anything and everything to deal with their anxiety. So implying that there’s a “simple” solution can make someone feel like, Well if the solution is so simple, why aren’t I fixed yet? What’s wrong with me?

I’ll be honest: I’ve had these thoughts. I have both GAD and social anxiety under my belt. I’m on medication (no shame in my pill game!) but that isn’t a magic fix. I’ve tried everything on every list to deal with my anxiety. So when I run down the list and still find myself struggling, I sometimes think, What the hell is wrong with me? Why isn’t this working?

We need to stop acting like there’s an easy fix to mental health. There are no amount of listicles that can help you beat a life-long disorder. Yes, there can be helpful ideas somewhere among the list of garbage. But we need to recognize that anxiety is complex and it needs a complex solution.

So if you struggle with any form of anxiety, ditch the articles written by novices like me and start seeking out professionals. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a good place to start.

Photo by Thnh Phng

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.