Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in Australia. Everyone feels anxious and experiences worry and stress from time to time. Anxiety can be a natural reaction to a stressful situation such as an upcoming job interview or feeling overwhelmed about finances or chores.
Everyday anxiety is typically manageable and short-lived. Anxiety can even be essential to our survival, such as if you saw a growling dog approaching you, you may sense danger and cross the road to avoid the dog. This is called the ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response and is a normal anxiety reaction which triggers you to respond to danger.
However, usually when a stressful event passes the anxiety does to. Those that have an anxiety disorder differ in that the anxiety persists even after the stressful situation has passed. The anxiety can also occur more frequently, is more intense and lasts for a longer period of time. Anxiety disorders can interfere with a person’s ability to manage daily tasks, have relationships and study or work. Anxiety disorders can also affect the way people see themselves and others.
What are the symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety can present in a numbers of way and develop over time. Symptoms typically fall into three categories being, cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms. Below are a list of common anxiety symptoms:
- Worrying excessively
- Over-analysing/repeatedly going over the same thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling dizzy, nauseous
- Sweating, hot or cold flushes
- Restlessness or shaking
- Avoiding activities or situations that cause feelings of anxiety (e.g., parties)
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are typically caused by a combination of factors. Below are a list of some physical and social factors:
- A family history of mental illness
- Environmental stressors such as bereavement, relationship issues, family problems, difficulty at work
- Physical, verbal or sexual abuse in childhood or adulthood
- Major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event
- Chronic physical illness such as diabetes or asthma
What is the treatment for Anxiety?
Treatment options can vary and depend on the type of anxiety and the severity levels of the anxiety. Treatment for anxiety can involve different types of self-treatment, medications, and psychological treatments.
- Practicing relaxation and mindfulness exercises
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Engaging in enjoyable activities
- Reducing alcohol and drug use
- Keeping a regular sleep schedule
Seeing a psychologist and getting evidence-based treatment has been found to be the most effective way to treat anxiety and reduce the risk of anxiety issues reoccurring. Some effective psychological treatments can include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT involves identifying, challenging and replacing unhelpful thoughts and worries. It may also incorporate exposure and response prevention work where client’s expose themselves to a situation that causes their anxiety and they learn to tolerate the distress using coping strategies.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT combines mindfulness skills with self-acceptance practices. It aims to teach client’s to notice and accept their thoughts and feelings while also increasing their involvement in meaningful activities that are in line with their personal values.
Anti-depressants or benzodiazepines are medications typically used for anxiety. They can be effective in managing anxiety symptoms however, do not treat the underlying causes of anxiety. Therefore, medical treatments are best used in conjunction with psychological treatments.