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Is Anxiety A Disease?

Aug 18, 2007
Here's a really common question I get asked from time to time: Is anxiety a disease?

Now here's my really common answer: No, it's not.

Those of you who have read my articles before will not be surprised by this answer. But in truth, it's not only my answer-or my opinion. Hundreds of experts feel the same way. Consider:

"Cognitive Behavioral Therapy does not pretend to "cure" anxiety...because anxiety is not a disease."

-Vancouver Coastal Health Anxiety Disorders Clinic

But some may be thinking, "So what? Does it really matter if we call anxiety a disease or not? A rose by any other name, right?" Well in my experience, it absolutely does matter how we label anxiety. In fact, the labels we assign to things determine how we deal with them.

If my doctor says I have a cased of the "sniffles" I will react to that information in a certain way. But if my doctor says I have an "upper respiratory infection," I'm going to react to this information in a very different way, even though my situation and symptoms may be exactly the same.

It's easy to see that the words we use definitely count, especially over the long-haul. We develop habits in how we see ourselves and the world around us, and these habits ultimately determine how (and even if) we react to situations in our life.

Of course, from time to time we can all fall into a disempowering way of thinking, or of labeling ourselves and our situations that "zaps" our personal power. In fact, in some ways the world around us actually "conditions" us to see ourselves as powerless over problems we face in life.

No where is this more evident than in dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. If we use words like "disease" or "disorder" to describe these things, we tend to start looking at them as something that happens to us, something that we have no control over.

This is exactly the kind of "victim" thinking that keeps many people paralyzed with fear and panic; it makes it easy to develop a belief that the whole anxiety/panic situation is completely out of our hands, and that a medical solution is always necessary. Wrong!

The trouble with this thinking? A medical solution is only appropriate for a medical problem. The majority of anxiety is caused by problems in our "thinking habits," not problems in our physiology.

No matter how you go about it, recovery from anxiety requires the individual to accept his/her role in creating the issue to begin with. It has been my experience that "Until you accept responsibility for your anxiety situation, you're not going to overcome it."

You also need a therapist/coach/program that you can believe in, one that makes sense to you. It is important that you feel strongly about whatever approach you take, and that it motivates, encourages and even inspires YOU to 'see' yourself living a different life, free of anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety is not a disease. Don't give it that power over you.
About the Author
Jon Mercer, MA, is a personal development trainer and the founder of www.easycalm.com, a leading anxiety resource site. Eliminate Anxiety Symptoms Without Struggling. Watch this free video to learn how
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