This weekend I went on a public speaking course, and the trainer, for some unknown reason, started talking about anxiety. As I’ve been diagnosed with the condition myself, I sat up and listened-and was really disappointed to hear a far few common anxiety myths come out of his mouth. The only way to stop these is to keep talking, and so I wanted to share what he said, and my response. Inside Laura’s Head will always be about debunking anxiety myths and telling the truth about how anxiety affects me-though I will never claim to speak for others with the condition.
1) A fear of public speaking (being nervous, a bit shaky, sweating, feeling a bit sick) is a panic attack. No, no it’s not. It’s a similar sort of reaction yes, but anyone who has panic attacks will tell you that the nerves about public speaking are very, very mild in comparison.
2) A panic attack only ever lasts 3 minutes. No, incorrect. Panic attacks can last for ages. If my panic attacks were over in 3 minutes they would be so easy to deal with, I could just pop to the toilets, ring a friend and be back to normal before my tea break is over.
3) No one who suffers panic attacks should be taking Beta Blockers. Really? REALLY?! My doctor, 6 years at medical school, has prescribed me something that you, a FULLY TRAINED TRAINER, says I don’t need. She must be wrong then!
4) Breathing properly will stop you having panic attacks. Nothing stops them. If it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen. Pills help. Distraction helps. Nothing stops them though.
5) Tell yourself ‘No, I will not have a panic attack’ and you won’t. Oh, well if only I’d known that. I’m cured!
I understand that maybe this guy just didn’t know-maybe it was ignorance rather than anything malicious. BUT, untruths like this can cause serious damage to those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. 1 in 3 people suffer from some sort of mental health issue so it’s likely that, out of the 9 participants, I’m not the only one thinking ‘WTF’ when this was being said. Sadly, not one of us challenged his view. I didn’t feel comfortable doing this. Looking back, I wish I had.
What ridiculous anxiety myths have you heard that made you angry?