According to Beyond Blue, Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. With this in mind, it is important to understand the different treatment options available to people suffering from anxiety disorders, to keep the disorder in check and under control.
Different Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can present in many different ways and therefore must be treated in different ways. Not all anxiety disorders look the same or have the same underlying cause. There are three main types of anxiety disorders including, generalised anxiety disorders, social phobias and panic attacks.
Generalised Anxiety Disorders typically present in extreme worriers who seem to have a negative or pessimistic view of the world, always assuming the worst will happen. Although it is normal to worry about life, finances, children and relationships, people with generalised anxiety disorder find it difficult to get through the day, as the worry can be all consuming and sometimes debilitating.
Social Phobia is another form of anxiety where a person’s fear of social situations, prevent them from participating in daily tasks, like going to work, meeting with friends and even doing the groceries.
Panic Disorders are a sudden attack or onset of uncontrollable fear or terror, resulting in physical symptoms like a cold sweat and heart palpitations. Panic attacks occur at any time and the person experiencing the attack may feel an intense sense of fear or impending doom. Panic Disorder is one of the most common presentations with many individuals diagnosed with the disorder also meeting criteria for Agoraphobia. A diagnosis of Agoraphobia is given if (a) the patient reports anxiety about places or situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be immediately available, and (b) these situations are avoided or endured with marked distress. Patients who present with panic attacks may appear as composed, competent individuals with full and fulfilling lives, however, beneath the surface they are enduring extreme discomfort and are often struggling to keep going.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety can be caused by a number of things that present as risk factors contributing to the development of an anxiety condition. Such factors include a genetic predisposition, stress and lifestyle, chronic health conditions, substance abuse and mental health conditions just to name a few.
Sometimes anxiety or other mental health problems run in the family therefore giving you a genetic predisposition to it. This is not to say you will definitely have an anxiety condition if your grandmother did but if you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and you know it runs in the family, it would be a good idea to speak to a professional about it. You may also consider your personality type as research shows certain personality types are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Perfectionists, people who like to be in control or those who lack self-esteem sometimes develop anxiety disorders at various stages of their life.
Ongoing stress such as work related stress; marriage or relationship stress or traumatic life events may lead to the development of an anxiety condition. It is important to recognise the stressor and manage the symptoms by talking to friends, family and a professional.
Chronic health like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other major physical illnesses are challenged to face the reality of the disease and often feel anxiety as an effect of the disease. Faced with problems that the disease places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence and low self esteem as a result of the disease, can also contribute to anxiety.
How do drug and alcohol affect anxiety?
Managing anxiety can be difficult and some anxiety sufferers turn to alcohol or drugs to manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, the immediate effect of the substance that may seem effective, they often lead to long term addiction or substance abuse and may also aggravate the condition.
Treatments for Anxiety
Everyone is different in how they experience anxiety and what might provoke the onset of anxiety or a panic attack, which is why it is important to recognise your individual signs and symptoms and seek professional help. Ideally a team of health professionals will work together to delivery a holistic mental plan that works for the individual. In terms of psychological treatments for anxiety, talk therapy, has proven effectiveness by equipping the individual with personalised strategies to control symptoms of anxiety.
Also known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) talk therapy often focuses on changing belief and thinking patterns that result in certain behaviours, namely anxiety. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit and like any other bad habit, it can be modified.
So in treating anxiety, our psychologists help people identify when their thought patterns are negative and replace them with more helpful thoughts, resulting in more positive behavioural outcomes.
Part of cognitive behavioural therapy in treating anxiety is monitoring your ‘self talk’ and testing realities of negative talk by evaluating the thoughts that lead to unhelpful fears and beliefs. For example, people who suffer from anxiety may avoid friends or social situations because of negative beliefs. The treatment focuses on questioning the negative thoughts and beliefs (like, my friends find me boring) that lead to the feelings of anxiousness in social situations.
Finally, CBT not only helps you understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns but can also provide you with a range of useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or noticing these symptoms in someone you love, we have a diverse team of Brisbane psychologists who can help manage your anxiety. Visit the Brisbane Psychologists page to read about our team and their areas of specialisation.