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Understanding Anxiety

This post comes from the material written by beyondblue. The full PDF can be found here.

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. Anxious feelings are a normal reaction to a situation where a person feels under pressure – for example, meeting work deadlines, sitting exams or speaking in front of a group of people. However, for some people these anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue after the stressful event has passed. For a person experiencing anxiety, anxious feelings cannot be brought under control easily. Anxiety can be a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in fve men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.1 Anxiety is common, but the sooner people with anxiety get help, the more likely they are to recover.

How do you know if someone has anxiety?

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

  • fnding it diffcult 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 diffculties (e.g. nightmares/fashbacks) after a traumatic event.

What causes anxiety?

It’s often a combination of factors that can lead to a person developing anxiety.

  • Family history of mental health problems: People who experience anxiety often have a history of mental health problems in their family. However, this doesn’t mean that a person will automatically develop anxiety if a parent or close relative has had a mental health condition.

  • Stressful life events: Stressful events can also trigger symptoms of anxiety. Common triggers include:

    • 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.

  • Physical health problems: Continuing physical illness can also trigger anxiety or complicate the treatment of the anxiety or the physical illness itself. Common conditions that can do this include:

    • hormonal problems (e.g. overactive thyroid)

    • diabetes

    • asthma

    • heart disease.

If there is concern about any of these conditions, ask a doctor for medical tests to rule out a medical cause for the feelings of anxiety.

  • Substance use: Heavy or long-term use of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines or sedatives (such as benzodiazepines) can actually cause people to develop anxiety, particularly as the effects of the substance wear off. People with anxiety may fnd themselves using more of the substance to cope with withdrawalrelated anxiety, which can lead to them feeling worse.

  • Personality factors: Some research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily fustered, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood or as adults.

Where to get help

A General Practitioner (GP) is a good person with whom to discuss your concerns in the frst instance. A good GP can:

  • make a diagnosis

  • check for any physical health problems 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 he or she can get a Medicare rebate for psychological treatment

  • provide brief counselling or, in some cases, talking therapy

  • prescribe medication

  • refer a person to a mental health specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

It is recommended that people consult their regular GP or another GP in the same clinic, as medical information is shared within a practice.

Other help is available from Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Mental health nurses, Social workers in mental health, Occupational therapists in mental health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workers.

Where to fnd more information

Learn more about depression and anxiety, or talk it through with their support service.
1300 22 4636
Email or chat to beyondblue online at www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport

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Access to crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services.

Access to trusted, relevant mental health care services, online programs and resources.

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Born in Sydney in 1975, Angus grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney and later in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. Over the years he has been a check out operator, charity collection agent for the Muscualr Dystrophy Association, Apple Repair Technician and is a former Director and all rounder type computer and network technician of Little Computer People. He is married to Michelle, who he met on-line back in the good old days of the internet when it was considered a big no-no to have physically met someone you chat to on-line for fear of harm. He has lived in Melbourne for two years, then moved back to Sydney for eleven years, but is once again back in Melbourne. It is nicer than Sydney for artistic purposes and coolness factor. As of now he lives in Pascoe Vale, fixes computers and networks, takes photos of all sorts of things as a hobby and builds lego to help deal with his depression. Capril means even more to him now.

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