Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor
imageAustralians are less likely to see a person with an anxiety disorder as warranting professional help.David Goehring/Flickr, CC BY

Australians have come a long way in understanding depression. Most recognise the symptoms and believe in the value of professional help.

But anxiety disorders have been left behind. National surveys of “mental health literacy” show Australians are far less likely to recognise symptoms of anxiety.

Around 15% of Australians suffer an anxiety disorder in any given year. This includes generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

When given a description of a person who is depressed, around three-quarters of survey respondents recognise the person is “depressed”. With PTSD, only a third get the label correct. For social phobia, it’s less than one in ten.

Australians are also less likely to see a person with an anxiety disorder as warranting professional help.

Everyday worry

One reason for lack of understanding is that anxiety is something everyone experiences. And it’s not always a bad thing. Anxiety is necessary for our survival, because it protects us from danger. It can also motivate us to improve our performance in situations such as exams, sporting competitions and public speaking.

But, like many good things, it is possible to have too much. When the anxiety is intense, lasting and interferes with a person’s life, then it becomes an anxiety disorder.

However, there is no clear boundary between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. They lie along a continuum, just like obesity is at the high end of body size and hypertension at the high end of blood pressure.

Not a weakness

Because we all experience anxiety and manage OK with it most of the time, it’s easy to judge people with anxiety disorders as weak. Almost half (45%) of Australians believe “weakness of character” is a likely cause of someone developing severe social anxiety.

But imagine feeling like a semi-trailer is going to run over you when you are crossing the road. Or you’re working in bomb disposal and have to defuse a device that could explode at any time. That is what it can be like for a person with an anxiety disorder, even though there is no semi-trailer and no bomb.

Extreme anxiety can cause physical symptoms, such as pounding heart, chest pain, sensations of choking, sweating and shaking. For a person having a panic attack, which involves anxiety at its most extreme, it can feel like they are going to die.

Given that extremes of anxiety can be so unpleasant, it’s not surprising that people with anxiety disorders will often rearrange their lives to avoid these experiences. This is when anxiety changes from being a help to a major hindrance.

People may avoid driving alone, leaving the house, talking in front of a group or many other everyday activities. Their lives become restricted by the anxiety and the fear of terrifying panic attacks. At this point, we would call it an “anxiety disorder”.

Rather than being a weakness, to confront certain everyday situations can be an act of great bravery. For a person with an anxiety disorder, it is the equivalent of being that bomb disposal expert.

Treatment options

A range of psychological, medical and lifestyle treatments can effectively treat various anxiety disorders. Treatments need to be tailored to the person’s particular type of anxiety disorder and will usually involve a commitment over several months.

The best all-round approach is cognitive behaviour therapy. This involves working with a therapist to look for patterns of thinking and acting that are contributing to problems with anxiety. Once these patterns are recognised, the person learns to use different approaches to thinking and acting that reduce anxiety and improve coping.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is available from a clinical psychologist. But it’s not even necessary to see a therapist face-to-face. Free, internet-based services produce outcomes as good as face-to-face treatment, when followed through to the end.

Medications can also assist, including antidepressants, but they have risks that must be balanced against the benefits.

Complementary and lifestyle treatments with supporting evidence include acupuncture, certain types of self-help books, relaxation training and yoga.

Better knowledge, better treatment

Despite good treatments for anxiety disorders, few people receive them. A national survey of Australian adults found that only 38% of people with an anxiety disorder received treatment in the previous 12 months.

Even when people do receive treatment, they typically wait for many years before seeking help. Also, the treatment they do receive is often not the right choice or not long enough to be effective.

Why is the situation so bad? The major reason is that people lack knowledge of anxiety disorders and the treatments available. Concern about being seen as weak may also deter some people.

If you are concerned about a loved one who might have an anxiety disorder, it is important to be supportive and not criticise. Encourage the person to get professional help. Often, someone else suggesting it is the trigger that gets a person to treatment and is the start of their recovery.

A good way to learn to help is to do a Mental Health First Aid course. However, there are also free guidelines available on how to help people with anxiety and other mental health problems.


Resources:

Beyondblue has an easy-to-read guide explaining the treatment options and their effectivness for each type of anxiety disorder.

Online psychological support services are available from:

Anthony Jorm has received funding from beyondblue to write a guide to what works for anxiety disorders. He is chair of the board of Mental Health First Aid Australia. He was formerly a staff member of the Australian National University, which produced e-Couch.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/australians-understand-depression-so-why-dont-we-get-anxiety-49198

Writers Wanted

Top economists want JobSeeker boosted by $100+ per week and tied to wages

arrow_forward

Tricks and Accessories for Boosting Your Home Style

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion