Anxiety is a medical condition characterised by persistent, excessive worrying. It is often associated with depression but it is important to recognise it as a condition on its own as well.
Anxiety disorders are thought to affect one in four Australians at some stage of life, to varying degrees of severity. It is more common in women than in men.
A mild level of anxiety can actually be a beneficial thing. It can be an early warning that the situation we are about to enter is dangerous. However, when these thoughts start to enter multiple aspects of your life, or start to affect your ability to find enjoyment in life, work and relationships, this is where it becomes a disorder and finding a way to manage it becomes necessary.
There are a multitude of types of anxiety including generalised anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety, agoraphobia and post traumatic stress disorder (to name a few).
Some of the most commonly describes feelings or symptoms include:
- Feeling worried or afraid most or all of the time
- Nervousness or feeling tense or scared
- Feelings of panic
- Feelings of being detached from your body
- Increased irritability and agitation
- Feeling a need to vomit or your stomach is ‘churning’
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Heart palpitations
- Fidgeting, twitches, difficulty concentrating or staying in one position, or on one task for too long
- Random ‘tics’ such as scratching, picking at sores, biting nails etc.
- Thoughts of death or inevitability
- Compulsions and obsessions
- Feeling like there is no way out or no way up
- Feeling you won’t be able to handle what’s coming
- Feeling that you can’t focus on anything but your worries
- Feeling that you cannot calm down
- Loss of interest in socialising or maintaining relationships
Sometimes these feelings go unnoticed or unacknowledged, put down as a ‘bad week’. However, when the feelings become persistent and affect your ability to meet your daily responsibilities, there are plenty of help options available. It is also important to diagnose any underlying medical conditions that could be attributing to these feelings, such as depression.
Treatment options for anxiety are very effective and may involve combination of approaches including individual therapy, group therapy, meditation, mindfulness, exercise and possibly medication. Your GP is the best person to speak to if anxiety is affecting your quality of life. They can organise referrals, talk to you about coping strategies and link you in with useful websites or other online resources to help you learn more about reducing your anxiety triggers and learn to live a happier and more productive life.