As someone with an anxiety disorder, I’m exhausted of people recommending yoga and meditation to treat a real, serious medical issue.
As young as three years old, I recall my mother yanking my fingers out of my mouth, so I’d stop nibbling my nails. Over the years, I’ve developed other habits of picking at my dry skin on my cuticles, face, and feet whenever I feel nervous.
Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder, is a mental health disorder characterized by the body-focused repetitive behavior of excessive skin picking, similar to the hair-pulling disorder, trichotillomania. Skin-picking disorders are officially recognized by medical professionals.
Additionally, skin-picking proves that my anxiety goes beyond symptoms of stagefright, occasional nail-biting, nervousness, and mild social awareness. Over the years, my anxiety has also been linked to a bowel disorder, panic attacks, social isolation, hyperactivity, disordered eating, and insomnia among other medical problems.
Needless to say, my anxiety is real, but sometimes, it’s hard for me to believe that my anxiety exists at all, despite the symptoms I endure.
To help cope with my anxiety, I’ve sought professional help from therapists. Likewise, I’ve had some great therapists who’ve helped me find healthy ways to cope with past trauma.
However, when it comes to discussing my anxiety and other mental health issues, very rarely do I have such positive interactions with medical professionals outside of the psychotherapy.
Last year, I went to the gynecologist. I was experiencing symptoms of what I thought was (and still think, is) vaginismus. At the time, I had difficulties with having sex with my partner as well as inserting tampons and menstrual cups. After both a vaginal and abdominal ultrasound, the doctor confirmed I didn’t have a serious condition, such as an ovarian cyst.
The ultrasound results were comforting, but the doctor’s final conclusion was not. She disregarded my medical problem, insisting I sign up for yoga classes and download a cheap meditation app on my phone. She also told me to eat healthy, sleep eight hours a night, and exercise regularly.
My heart sank. Oh, if only it were that easy, I thought. This wasn’t the first time a medical professional invalidated and dismissed my mental health issues. Whenever I see doctors for bowel issues, my Irritable Bowel Syndrome is often masked as being stressed.
This is why I don’t often disclose much of my anxiety, trauma, and other history with medical doctors. Additionally, I don’t want to relive, regurgitate, and answer questions about my mental health issues out of fear of being triggered. After all, I’m not there to be treated for mind, but instead, my body.
Of course, mindful practices like yoga and meditation can help people cope with mental health issues. I’m not dismissing the healthy habits they can be. After all, everyone is different; no single treatment will work for everyone.
However, a medical professional shouldn’t treat serious mental health problems with mindfulness. It’s dangerous to mask meditation with a serious, lingering mental health problem. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time I have to say this, but: yoga and meditation will never cure my anxiety.