Why “I Beat Anxiety” is a Terrible Title

Ditto for “Overcame,” “Conquered,” and “Escaped.”

The entire model is off.

Because I’ve been working on a site dedicated to stress, anxiety, and overthinking for the past two years, nearly every day I receive a new trending anxiety article via text or Facebook messenger from a smart, well-read friend or family member. The piece usually looks like this:

Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2017

I always stand at my computer and groan. This is perceived as what will garner clicks. Whether the writer, (in this case, Andrea Peterson), chose the title or not, this is often how anxiety articles are framed and sold.

I like Greatist! They blew it here, tho.

The problem is: what gets clicks wends its way into hearts and minds. This framing will not help people who actually have anxiety. In fact, it only exacerbates the problem.

Those of us who have anxiety are always looking for answers. We google until our fingers are numb. We read every book we can find. We covertly study. We slyly interview. We believe that if we work hard enough, we will find a way to beat, escape, or conquer anxiety.

Look ma, more muscles!

Alas, all of this trying and searching is only adding to our anxiety. It is part of the problem, not the solution.

There is no path “out of” anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, like Andrea and I do, then like us, anxiety will likely be some part of your entire life.

Does this mean that you can’t be happy? No! You can find many ways to feel safe and comfortable with who you are, anxiety and all. (Here’s a place to start). But the false promise these headlines are selling in order to get your click — that you can no longer feel the pressure of anxiety if you just read what someone else did to work on theirs — is a lie. And it needs to stop.

Et tu, Psychology Today?

We all need to stand up to click-bait anxiety titles, but this critique is really aimed at my fellow writers. Ask yourself, “Do I really mean what I’m saying when I write ‘beat anxiety’? Or am I just wanting a dopamine hit from getting a bunch of clicks?”

If it’s the latter, then perhaps you, too, need to ride the wave and adjust your expectations.

Tandem surfing was actually a thing in the 60s.

What I want people with anxiety to know: you’re not alone in feeling confused. You don’t need to Arnold the situation to be OK. There are many tactics to try, but since no two anxieties are the same, what worked for others won’t always work for you. Keep experimenting and you will find calmer, happier shores.

And good luck on that wave!

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