While it’s normal to experience anxiety from time to time in stressful or new situations, for some people these anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue after the stressful event has passed.
Anxiety is when anxious feelings don’t subside, when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life and these feelings cannot be easily controlled.
It is Common…….
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. In fact, around 26 per cent of adults are affected by anxiety disorders at some point in their life.
The symptoms of anxiety can often develop gradually over time. Given that we all experience some anxiety it can sometimes be hard to know how much is too much. To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety must have a disabling impact on the person’s life.
There are many types of anxiety. While the symptoms for each type are different, some general signs and symptoms include:
- feeling very worried or anxious most of the time
- finding it difficult to calm down
- feeling overwhelmed or frightened by sudden feelings of intense panic/anxiety
- experiencing recurring thoughts that cause anxiety, but may seem silly to others
- avoiding situations or things which cause anxiety (e.g. social events or crowded places)
- experiencing ongoing difficulties (e.g. nightmares/flashbacks) after a traumatic event.
It’s often a combination of factors that can lead to a person developing anxiety. Common triggers include family history of mental health problems, physical health problems, substance abuse or stressful life events such as:
- job stress or changing jobs
- change in living arrangements
- pregnancy and giving birth
- family and relationship problems
- experiencing a major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event
- experiencing verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma
- death or loss of a loved one.
Types of Medically Diagnosed Anxiety
When anxiety gets to a troubling level, the medical fraternity classifies it into six different types of anxiety. They are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD)
This is very common, and is usually an inherited trait. You know the people called ‘Worry Warts’ – that are simply worried about everything? They can’t help it. A lot of the time ‘Worry Warts’ have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most of the time the fix is a permanent course of anti-depressants. People with GAD usually do have it for life – but the anti-depressants can make it manageable for day to day life.
People with a Social Phobia usually show symptoms such as an intense fear of being embarrassed, criticized or the focus of attention. Social Phobia can be a learned behavior, but it can also be inherited. Most of the time it first occurs in adolescence.
A specific phobia is where a person has an unreasonable fear of something. Think of people frightened of flying or having an injection. It is thought that approximately 11% of the population have a phobia. They are usually caused by a traumatic experience, or are an inherited disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a where a patient repeats a recurring action, even though they know that that action will have little to no bearing on the outcome. People with OCD often feel an intense ‘shame’ of their actions, and them themselves often think that their actions are futile or silly. Common forms of OCD include cleanliness, hoarding, safety (continually checking locks and windows etc) or religious disorder where they feel they must pray constantly. It is thought up to 3% of the population have OCD. Treatment includes intensive mental therapy sessions and possibly medication.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is often suffered after a extremely traumatic experience such as war, an accident or witnessing a disaster). People with PTSD suffer terrible hallucinations and re-living of the event. PTSD is very serious and needs medical intervention and long term psychiatric assistance.
Panic Disorders include people that have panic attacks, get short of breath or dizziness. 5% of the population will suffer from a panic attack some time in their life. Constant panic attacks need to be seen to by a professional.
How to help yourself if you have anxiety
By kind to yourself. Know that if it doesn’t just ‘pass’, that you need to see your GP. Other things you can do to manage anxiety in the meantime include:
- Postpone major life changes.
- Resolve personal conflicts as they arise.
- Take part in enjoyable activities and learn to relax.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce alcohol and other drugs
Where to get help?
A General Practitioner (GP) is a good person with whom to discuss your concerns in the first instance. A good GP can:
- make a diagnosis
- check for any physical health problem or medication that may be contributing to the anxiety
- discuss available treatments
- work with the person to draw up a Mental Health Treatment Plan so they can get a Medicare rebate for psychological treatment
- provide counselling
- prescribe medication
- refer a person to a mental health specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety contact beyondblue for support, advice and an action plan. For further advice and assistance you can also find resources on our Important Hotlines and Websites post.
For further advice and assistance you can also find resources on our Important Hotlines and Websites post.