An alarming number of people don’t realise that anxiety is a treatable mental health issue, although there are more sufferers in Australia than those with depression.
Mental health charity beyondblue has relaunched its national anxiety campaign after its own analysis showed 40 per cent of people think anxiety is “just stress”.
A survey of 700 people aged between 25 and 45 found that only half of those knew anxiety was not part of someone’s personality, and about the same number thought it affects only a small proportion of people.
In fact, about a quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition at some time in their lives and about three million people currently have a condition, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman says it indicates many people don’t recognise anxiety symptoms, such as hot and cold flushes, racing heart, snowballing worries and compulsive behaviour, which are signs that they could be experiencing a mental health issue.
“Anxiety is a debilitating condition that robs people of their peace of mind,” Ms Harman says.
“It can stop people leaving their homes, holding down a job, maintaining relationships or doing everyday things because of irrational fears of what could happen.
“It’s a problem that can prevent people from living the life they want. No one should have to live with the relentless worrying, panic attacks or compulsive rituals that often characterise anxiety conditions.”
beyondblue relaunched its Get to Know Anxiety national campaign to help people recognise the signs and symptoms so they can get treatment and get better.
Are you showing symptoms?
The symptoms of anxiety are sometimes not that obvious as they often develop gradually, and given that we all experience some anxiety on occasion, it can be hard to know how much is too much.
Some common symptoms include:
• Hot and cold flushes
• Racing heart
• Tightening of the chest
• Snowballing worries
• Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
You can complete a quick beyondblue anxiety and depression checklist, which measures how you have been affected by both disorders across four weeks.
What are the different types of anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried.
Anxiety is when those anxious feelings don’t subside, and when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause.
Is it treatable or manageable?
beyondblue chairman and former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett says anxiety “can be treated and it can be cured”.
“The most important thing is to seek help”, Mr Kennett told ABC.
“I’m not a mechanic, if my car starts behaving abnormally I don’t try and fix it, that’s if I recognise I’ve got a problem I go and seek help.”
There are several ways to manage and treat anxiety, including psychological treatment, medical treatment and natural therapies such as meditation and yoga, keeping a balanced diet and plenty of exercise.
Victorian-based psychologist Michael Costa says anxiety is when people worry about things that haven’t even happened.
Mr Costa says it’s when people think about a negative event from the past, and imagine the same failings occurring in the future.
“I teach people about how to spend their time thinking in the present, and re-wiring the brain to do that,” Mr Costa says.
“People spend a lot of time in the past and future and anticipate what might happen, rather than being in the present moment.”
Mr Costa’s eclectic approach includes cognitive behaviour therapy as well as meditation.
He treats depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, post traumatic stress disorder, assertiveness issues, anger management, stress/pain management, relationships, sleep disorders, in his Hurstbridge practise.
He says every anxiety disorder case is different, and while it will sometimes require a lot of effort to get on top of, it’s not impossible to manage and treat it.
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