All of us feel anxious at some moments in our lives. It’s part of who we are and how we connect to the world around us. In our lives we are often required to make a choice. And simply because a choice involves thinking about and weighing up the benefits and failing of the different factors we consider in making a decision we experience tension. This is generally compounded because the decision we make will in all likelihood change something in our lives. And changes create further anxieties; can I manage the new situation, how will it effect the people I love, is it the right thing to do? In the most general of ways because we can think about ourselves in relation to the world and others and we can also think about what we will do in the future. In both of these situations we are immediately aware of how things might be different and the need to reconcile these causes a sense of tension or by another name anxiety.
Societal change and cultural evolution have moved at an ever increasing pace in contemporary times. One aspect of this is about the increasing number of choices we have. Everything we think about or do involves choice. Anyone who has gone to buy a new pair of sneakers is confronted by so many questions. Will I go now, will I go alone or with someone, which shop will I go to. And when I get there I find there is a bewildering selection of brands and styles. What makes it more difficult, some are ‘on special’ while the ones I really like are full price. We might not think so but such a vast number of choices is a relatively new phenomenon in our society, is increasing and most significantly makes us anxious. It is little wonder the incidence of Anxiety Disorders are increasing and alarmingly so.
So if anxiety arises as a natural consequence of who we are and the day to day life we lead when and why does it become a mental health problem for which we need expert help to resolve?
First and foremost we need to recognise we are anxious. Many people do not know they are suffering anxiety symptoms. It is worth keeping in mind Anxiety Disorders are the commonest mental health problem and over a lifetime 1 in 3 Australians will suffer from them. Yet the treatment gap, that is the number of people suffering from a condition who do not receive treatment is between (50-80)%. There are many reasons for this gap, inability to access treatment because it is costly, involves travel, causes fear or shame (often a symptom of the condition itself), but also because too often symptoms are simply not appreciated as being part of a health condition.
So what are anxiety symptoms? Symptoms can be emotional in nature, feeling anxious and tense, physical in nature experiencing sweating, rapid heart beat, tremor, nausea and frequent bowel movements and cognitive in nature with intrusive, persistent negative thoughts, excessive worrying by another name.
When these symptoms are sufficiently severe and cluster together they define one of the many types of Anxiety Disorders from which people suffer. Formally these include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobic Disorder (like Agoraphobia) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being the commonest of the conditions. But they all have in common some or all of the symptoms listed above.
Anxiety conditions usually begin early in life. Without appropriate treatment they often persist for long periods of time and are associated with the development of additional conditions (co-morbidity) themselves usually of a chronic nature in about 30% of those suffering anxiety. Anxiety Disorders respond best to treatment when this begins early. Once anxiety is established it is far more resistant to treatment often becoming a style for the way a person lives their life. These are all powerfully cogent reasons to seek at the very least an assessment, if you think you have an anxiety condition.
As there are a number of different anxiety conditions there are also a number of different proven treatments. The selection of the most effective methods best made on an individual basis. At GWB because we are experienced in all the commonly used treatment options for anxiety and which are in common use by health practitioners so we can select the treatment program to achieve the best clinical outcome for you. We design your treatment program after a comprehensive assessment as a number of factors are known to predispose or cause an Anxiety Disorder including genetic and biological factors, psychologic stressors, trauma, coexisting physical illness, life events, and life style. Understanding these is important in formulating the best management plan for you.
The treatment options available at GWB include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Meditation (in various forms including Mindfulness), Desensitization, Short Term Psychotherapies, Psycho-education, EMDR, Couples and Family Therapy. In addition we will liase with your GP if at any stage in your treatment psychotropic medication is indicated.
In summary anxiety is common, frequently untreated and if left can lead to potentially lifelong problems.