Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. One in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life, according to Beyond Blue. This is equivalent to about two million Australians experiencing anxiety every year.
Results from a report published in April by NPS MedicineWise revealed it is taking Australians more than eight years to seek treatment for anxiety conditions, mostly due to a misunderstanding of the condition, or people not realising the symptoms they were experiencing were more than just personality traits.
"Experiencing fear and feelings of anxiety in certain situations can help us avoid danger," said General Practitioner Dr Jill Gamberg.
Triggering our response is a normal protective body response. It is how we have evolved to keep ourselves safe.
"[However] some people experience excessive and irrational anxiety. These worries can become ongoing and distressing.
"Often there appears to be no obvious or logical reason for the way a person feels. When worries are persistent or out of proportion to the reality of the threat and affect your daily living, this may indicate an anxiety disorder," she said.
The main symptoms of an anxiety disorder are fears or thoughts that are constant, distressing and can interfere with daily life. Other symptoms may include panic attacks or fear of having panic attacks.
There are often physical symptoms of anxiety such as insomnia, trembling, pounding heart, sweating, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and nausea. Avoidance behaviour can become an issue, when sufferers go to extreme lengths to avoid situations that may worsen anxiety or increase the chances of having a panic attack.
"Anxiety is emotionally and physically exhausting and getting help early is essential. Recovery from an anxiety disorder is possible with the right treatment and support.
"Effective treatments for anxiety disorders may include 'talking therapies' like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This can help you change your thinking patterns so you're able to keep your anxiety under control and reduce irrational worries.
"Relaxation techniques can be very useful including meditation, deep breathing exercises, counselling, and yoga. Online courses or e-therapies can be useful and can be done from home," said Dr Gamberg.
There are also online and in-person support groups that can help people feel supported and to realise they 'are not alone' in suffering with anxiety. The Australian government Department of Health's Head to Health website is full of resources for those living with anxiety, and those looking to support loved ones living with the condition.
Dr Gamberg said seeing a GP or psychiatrist can be essential for diagnosis, support and treatment, and medications such as anti-depressants can be beneficial and even life-saving in some circumstances.
If you need urgent help with anxiety or a mental health crisis contact Lifeline 131 114 or lifeline.org.au, beyondblue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au.
- For more information visit HealthShare, a digital company dedicated to improving the health of regional Australians. Or you can find a specialist near you using the health tool below.