Chances are you know more than one person grappling with an anxiety disorder. According to the Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, Gavin Andrews, 14 per cent of adults in Australia have anxiety.
Banjo* is a second year student at Sydney University who was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder doctors described as “extremely severe” this year. She can feel anxious about various things, from uni work, social commitments and body image to small things like household chores. Being diagnosed has helped her actively reduce her anxiety.
She told us a bit about her experience:
During an anxiety episode, she said “I’ll start to notice things like blurred vision, confusion and increased heart rate… The thoughts that run through my head are usually a variation of some kind of internalised fear, most commonly disappointing other people… I often cry, hyperventilate, scream, hit things, bite myself… I have thoughts of self-harm.
“It impacts heavily upon my ability to work and socialize. I had to quit my last job because I was experiencing panic at work…I often cancel social events last minute. I am trying to stop avoiding things as a coping mechanism. I find that the more I teach myself to avoid, the more likely it is that I will avoid smaller commitments.
“I currently take an antidepressant and see a psychologist regularly…. I do feel like I am progressing…The largest success for me I think is… [starting] an honest, thoughtful and open conversation about mental illness.”
What is ‘Anxiety’?
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel ‘anxious’. You be worried or nervous about exams or meeting new people. Someone with anxiety feels this distress often in situations where most people wouldn’t feel anxious. In some instances anxiety can be immobilizing, preventing a person from completing work and socializing.
There are five general categories of anxiety disorders:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder: persistent, excessive or irrational worries.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: obsessive behaviours
Social Anxiety Disorder: fear of social situations
Panic Disorder: where you experience panic attacks
Phobia: an intense fear of everyday objects and situations
What causes it?
Anxiety is linked to genetics and the environment. Some conditions which can increase anxiety are:
- High-volume workloads
- Concern for academic performance
- Unfamiliar academic practices
- Financial concerns
- Sleep deprivation
- Reduced physical exercise and socializing
- Personality traits such as perfectionism
Symptoms include your heart beating faster, difficulty breathing, an upset stomach, muscle tension, sweating, or feeling faint. Someone with anxiety often has a negative outlook. For example, you might tell yourself you will fail an assignment or that your work isn’t good enough.
Anxiety can lead to avoidance of social situations, procrastination, disorganization and low self-confidence.
Treatment is readily available and can begin after a visit to your doctor. They may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Treatments range from psychological therapy, which aims to change negative thinking, to medication if appropriate.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
SANE Australia: 1800 18 7263
*name has been changed for privacy reasons