The term “anxiety” is used to describe a number of uncomfortable human feelings, including: worry, concern, fear, fright, nerves, apprehension, and many more! We all feel anxious at some time in our lives. It can occur in a wide range of situations, like: standing on the top of a tall building, after breaking up with someone, or when we are doing exams. Anxiety is our body’s way of letting us know that something is not right. It helps us to avoid dangerous situations and gives us motivation to solve problems in our lives. When we feel threatened by something, or we are in danger, our body responds with a series of biochemical changes, aimed at preparing us to either fight or escape. Commonly known as the flight-or-fight response, this remains an important response when we are faced with a real threat or danger. The problem is that sometimes our brain has difficulty distinguishing between what is a real threat and what is over-estimated, or imagined.
When is Anxiety a problem?
We can experience anxiety in a number of ways. Mild anxiety can be somewhat vague and a little unsettling, while severe anxiety may affect our whole being and can be extremely debilitating. When the symptoms of anxiety become more severe they may last for longer, and can result in real physical symptoms. They may start to impact on our everyday life, including family, relationships, work and social activity.
If you find yourself experiencing the following symptoms for more than 2 weeks you may well be suffering from anxiety:
- Feeling worried frequently, or having a sense that something bad is going to happen
- Feeling irritable, restless or constantly in a bad mood
- Finding yourself avoiding places, situations or even physical sensations.
- Experiencing panic attacks in everyday situations (including rapid heart rate and breathing, sweating dizziness, headaches).
- Dry mouth or difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty getting to sleep, nightmares
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches and pains (especially neck, shoulders, back)
- Feeling sick – nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
Sometimes the symptoms of anxiety can be confused for physical illness, such as heart attack or stroke. For this reason it’s a good idea to see your family doctor to rule out any underlying physical health issues.
Anxiety disorders are a common form of emotion health issue, affecting one in 20 people at any given time. The causes are not fully understood, however it is known that some people are at more risk than others. Genetic makeup, self-esteem and thinking styles can all contribute.
Types of Anxiety Disorders:
All anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive worry and fear, however the fears vary with each individual. Accordingly, anxiety disorders are classified depending on the nature and themes of the worry. The most common anxiety disorders are:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD generally worry excessively about day to day issues, such as finances, work issues or family problems. While we all worry from time to time, people with GAD find it hard to stop worrying and will often do so to the point that it interferes with their everyday life. Around 5% of the Australian population suffers from GAD. They are generally “worriers” and will often say that that they have been a worrier for all of their lives.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety disorder describes overwhelming anxiety in one or more social situations. Such situations may include: meeting new people, being at parties, eating in public, speaking to authority figures or being assertive with others. Somewhere between 3 and 13% of Australians suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder.
The most recognisable feature of panic disorder is recurrent panic attacks. These are brief, but severe levels of anxiety, often accompanied by breathing difficulties, chest pains, tingling sensations, trembling and a sense of impending doom. In panic disorder the symptoms are often misinterpreted as a medical condition, such as heart attack or stroke. Sufferers often become fearful and avoidant of the places, or circumstances, in which they have experienced previous attacks.
About 2% of Australians have Panic Disorder, although up to 30% of the population experience a panic attack each year.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a severe reaction to witnessing, or being involved in, very stressful or traumatic events. Such events may include: war, serious car accidents, being the victim of a crime, physical or sexual abuse, or disasters such as floods and bushfires. PTSD is characterised by three main types of symptoms. These include: reliving the event, through intrusive memories or flashbacks; avoidance of things, places or emotions that bring back the memories; and physical responses, such as sleep difficulties, always feeling alert for danger, or frequent anger and irritability.
Up to a quarter of a million people in Australia experience PTSD in a year.
Fortunately effective treatments are available for anxiety disorders. Research has consistently demonstrated that psychological treatments are particularly effective. At TG Psychology we are able to tailor a treatment package to suit your needs. Our psychologists use a range of treatment approaches, depending on your presenting symptoms. These may include: education about anxiety and its effects; techniques to help you to reduce your physical symptoms, such as breathing control and muscle relaxation; strategies to help you think about your worries in more helpful ways; and graded exposure to feared situations.
At TG Psychology we have helped many people to manage anxiety and we are confident that we can help you too.
So give us a call today on Ph 02 8089 2665, and take the first step to coping with anxiety and getting the most from your life.