Anxiety can be a very emotionally charged and confusing topic. Considering how vastly different the many definitions of anxiety are, I wanted to share an article from The Gospel Coalition with you. This article does a good job of explaining how there are varying levels and forms of anxiety that effect believers and unbelievers alike. In my blog post, I will be addressing anxiety as a clinical disorder, not a conscious sin. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me! I would love to chat with you or pass on other resources that help explain anxiety. Thank you for reading!
The topic of anxiety disorders can seem extremely scary and intense.
To anyone who has never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or anyone who hasn’t needed to try and understand it, I can see why the topic could be overwhelming to navigate.
Questions like, “what does anxiety do?”, “can you treat it?”, or “what even is anxiety?” have complicated and multifaceted answers because everyone experiences anxiety differently. I can’t hope to clear up every question you have about anxiety in one blog post. I still have plenty of questions of my own! Just so we are all on the same page though, google defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
In my journey to better understand myself and the people around me, I have realized that there are many widely held beliefs about anxiety are simply not true. When these myths are believed, they can cause incredible damage to suffering souls. My hope is that by writing about my experiences with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), I can support those who struggle with anxiety and I can also encourage others to grow in their own knowledge to better help one another in love. Whether you have anxiety yourself or you are supporting a loved one with anxiety, I hope my that thoughts can provide you with a little more clarity and hope.
1. Anxiety is rare.
Everyone gets worried sometimes. It’s a natural response to stressful situations. But for some reason, people see the word “disorder” and freak out, as if they’ve never met someone with a mental health struggle like an anxiety disorder.
Reality is that you almost definitely know someone who struggles with anxiety, even if you never realized it. Anxiety is a common thing. That doesn’t make anxiety easy or unimportant.
It simply means you’re not alone.
And sometimes that makes all the difference.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million people in the U.S. alone have some kind of anxiety disorder. For those of you who are bad at math like me, that’s over 18% of the total population.
Whether you have anxiety or support someone who does, don’t buy into the lie that you are isolated and hopeless. You are never fighting alone.
2. Anxiety makes you weak.
Anxiety can be incredibly sneaky. It whispers lies into the deepest parts of your heart that will absolutely tear you apart if you let them. One of those lies is that anxiety makes you weak, or that you have anxiety because you are weak. Other well-meaning people often perpetuate this lie by insinuating that anxiety could be cured if the person struggling would learn to be less sensitive.
This myth could not be further from the truth!
Many people develop anxiety as a response to being strong for too long and carrying weights that our human hearts were never meant to carry. We can only handle so much!
It’s time to stop shaming and adding to the stigma that anxiety is a sign of weakness. Instead, we should be celebrating the incredible strength of individuals who go to battle daily in within the walls of their mind.
The people in my life who struggle with anxiety disorders are genuinely some of the strongest, most resilient people I know.
3. Anxiety is a sin.
I have heard so many well-meaning Christians use Philippians 4:6 (“do not be anxious about anything”) as a proof text that anxiety is a sin. This can be such an incredibly damaging belief to believers who have anxiety disorders. Before you stop reading and yell “heretic!”, I want to encourage you to think about a few things.
Language is a complex thing. We often use the same words to describe things that are very different. For example, we use the word “flower” to talk about both roses and daisies. They’re different, but they are undoubtedly both still flowers.
We often do the same thing with the word “anxiety”. We talk about severe panic disorders and stage fright using the same non-descriptive words. They’re technically the same thing, but they are very different.
When you take into consideration the numerous translations our English Bibles have gone through, it makes even more sense to interpret “anxiety” as not referring specifically to anxiety disorders, but more broadly speaking of worry. The Bible condemns active worry-filled thought, but never speaks directly to anxiety disorders, which are characterized by more passive anxious thought. However, this passage in Philippians is still a valuable resource for those struggling with anxiety disorders!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
This doesn’t mean that you have failed God if you still wrestle with anxiety. This also doesn’t mean that God has failed you if you still wrestle with anxiety.
This is a promise. A beautiful promise full of hope that God will meet you in your struggle and guard your heart.
Wherever you are on your journey, I hope you carry that promise with you today. I hope you carry the knowledge of these myths with an open mind that is ready to learn and grow.
Keep fighting, my friends. And maybe someday soon you’ll see that anxiety doesn’t have to be so scary after all.