21 Jan Anxiety
Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time. Sometimes anxiety can help us perform better by helping us feel alert and motivated – for example, when going for a job interview. Anxiety is our body’s way of preparing us to manage difficult situations.
However, when anxious feelings don’t go away, happen without any particular reason or make it hard to cope with daily life it’s time to do something about it. You should be assured that you are not alone. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in ﬁve men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.
The symptoms of anxiety are sometimes not all that obvious. They often develop slowly over time, and everyone experiences anxiety differently. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:
- Physical such as panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, faster breathing, sweating, shaking or feeling dizzy, or having muscle aches – especially the neck, shoulders and back.
- Psychological including excessive fear, worrying about things all the time, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking.
- Behavioural like avoiding people or places, withdrawing from family and friends, having trouble concentrating or paying attention, inability to relax, feeling annoyed, irritated or restless, or having difficulty getting to or staying asleep.
Anxiety isn’t developed or caused by a single factor but a combination of things. Several other factors play a role, including personality factors, difficult life experiences and physical health. These can include:
- Family history of mental health conditions – You may have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop anxiety.
- Personality factors – People with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
- Ongoing stressful events – Common triggers include work stress or job change, changes in living arrangements, pregnancy and childbirth, family and relationship problems, major emotional shocks following a stressful or traumatic event, verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma, and the death or loss of a loved one.
- Physical health problems – Anxiety can impact the treatment or tolerance of chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension/heart disease .
Risks and complications
Unrelated physical conditions – Some physical conditions, like an overactive thyroid, can mimic anxiety. Your doctor will determine whether there may be a medical cause for your feelings of anxiety.
Multiple conditions – Many people experience multiple anxiety conditions, or other mental health conditions. Depression and anxiety often occur together. It’s important to get assistance for all these conditions at the same time.
Substance use – Alcohol and substance use can aggravate anxiety particularly as the effects of the substance wear off. It’s important to check for and get assistance for any substance abuse at the same time.
Common anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health challenges and it’s important to know that they can all be treated.
- Generalised anxiety disorder – Some people worry, and feel their worries are out of control, and feel tense and nervous most of the time.
- Social anxiety disorder – Intense anxiety in social situations because of fear of embarrassment or judgement.
- Separation anxiety disorder – You may experience intense fear about being away from loved ones – like parents or siblings – or often worry about them being hurt.
- Panic disorder – Panic attacks are sudden rushes of intense anxiety or fear, together with frightening thoughts and physical feelings. Panic attacks can feel overwhelming, but usually only last about 10 minutes.
- Agoraphobia – Intense anxiety about being in particular environments outside the home. This can include public spaces, public transport, enclosed spaces or crowds.
- Specific phobias – Fear of a particular situation or object (like spiders or animals) can lead you to avoid it.
Only a health professional can accurately diagnose anxiety, but when your sense of anxiety gets in the way of everyday life, it’s time to seek help.
Prevention / lifestyle / management
There are ways to manage your anxiety, including:
- Care for yourself – Managing anxiety starts with good self-care. Try to eat well, get enough sleep and stay active to help your overall mental health and wellbeing.
- Talk about it – Talk about how you’re feeling – whether it’s with your family, friends, a teacher, coach, your mob, or Elders. They can help you understand what’s going on, stick to your self-care goals, and get extra help if needed.
- Notice your thinking patterns – Being aware of what thoughts are influencing your anxiety is an important step towards managing it. It can help you understand what triggers your anxiety, so you can learn new ways to cope.
- Be aware of avoidance – It’s normal to want to avoid situations that make you feel anxious. It might help in the short term, but over time it can make your anxiety feel worse. The thing you fear may not happen or be as bad as you think!
- Learn some skills to cope with anxiety – Like helpful self-talk and relaxation, then gradually face the things you fear and put your skills into action.
- Try new breathing strategies – Many anxiety symptoms involve a cycle of physical sensations. Working on controlling your breathing is a good way to try to interrupt that cycle.
- Limit your use of alcohol and other drugs – While they might help you to feel good in the short term, they can make you feel much worse in the longer term.