What is an anxiety disorder?
An anxiety disorder is a medical condition characterised by persistent, excessive worry.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings aren’t easily controlled.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of factors. Most anxious people are probably born with a genetic vulnerability to develop an anxiety disorder. Personality traits and responses to stressful life events may trigger the condition or make it worse.
How many people develop anxiety disorders?
Every year, around 14% of all adult Australians are affected by an anxiety disorder. Women are affected more than men.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.
A person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as going shopping, speaking publicly, eating in public etc.
A person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example, having an injection or travelling on a plane. There are many different types of phobias.
Panic attacks are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.
Other Conditions Where Anxiety is Present
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
One may have ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety which they often try to relieve by carrying out certain behaviours or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.
Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event.
Treatments for Anxiety
A range of health professionals and services offer information, treatment and support for anxiety conditions, as well as a number of things you can do to help yourself.
Also known as talking therapies can help you change your thinking patterns so you’re able to keep your anxiety under control and reduce irrational worries.
There are different delivery options available such as one on one with a professional, while others get more out of a group environment. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy(CBT) is one such approach.
Research indicates that when people have an anxiety condition, specific changes occur in their brain’s chemicals- serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Antidepressant medication is designed to correct the imbalance of chemical messages between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Research shows that psychological therapies are the most effective treatment option for people with anxiety. However, if symptoms are severe, some medical treatments may be helpful.
Anxiety Management Strategies
There are a range of strategies you can try to manage your anxiety. What works for one might not be the same for another, and it can take time to find the strategies that work best for you. But remember, if your anxiety is proving difficult to manage seek support from a professional.
Here are few strategies you can try!
- Slow Breathing: Make a deliberate effort to slow down your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in slowly – then count to three as you breathe out slowly.
- Practice Mindfulness: .ie. stay in the present. Rather than focusing on potential terrible outcomes in the future. Hence you miss out on the present. Meditate and focus on 5 positive things in your current space or situation.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Find a quite location.With your eyes closed, slowly tense and relax each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly. This can help reduce the feelings of muscle tension that often comes with anxiety.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Keeping active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing.
- Get To Know Your Anxiety: keep a diary. Document patterns including when your anxiety is at its best or worst and plan your week accordingly.
- Talk It Out: Talking with others who also experience anxiety or are going through something similar can help you feel less alone.
- Be Kind To Yourself: Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety!
Some Useful Resources:
If you are suffering from anxiety and/or depression and need support, your GP is the best starting point for seeking professional help . The sooner you seek support, the sooner you can recover!
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