Anxiety is a normal human emotion. All of us feel anxious from time to time. Stress, worry, fear and panic are everyday words that we use to describe anxiety.
When we experience anxiety we often are affected by three types of symptoms:
1 - Unhelpful Thoughts:
Examples include: worrying about things that might happen, or things that have happened in the past. Having negative thoughts about ourselves or the future.
2 - Physical Symptoms:
Examples include: rapid heart rate, feeling sweaty or hot, trembling, upset stomach, muscle tension, headaches and feeling irritable.
3 - Changes in Behaviour:
Examples include: avoiding events, places or people that trigger feelings of anxiety. We may only go places when accompanied by another person.
Because most of us occasionally feel anxious we can all recognised some of these symptoms. However, there are important differences between normal levels of anxiety and having an Anxiety Disorder.
What is an Anxiety disorder?
An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when symptoms of anxiety are severe, happen too often, and affect a person’s ability to live a normal life. These symptoms should be present for at least one month, although usually people have experienced symptoms for years before seeking treatment. Anxiety Disorders should only be diagnosed by a registered and experienced health professional.
About 1 in 7 (14%) of Australians are affected by an Anxiety Disorder each year. There are several different types of Anxiety Disorders. People may have symptoms of more than one type of Anxiety Disorder at a time. Many people also have symptoms that increase and decrease over time. You can read more about the Anxiety Disorders that we treat at MindSpot by clicking on the tiles below.
Social Anxiety Disorder
“I wish I was comfortable talking to others or speaking in public.”
“I don’t know why the panic happens, but I worry I’m going to have a heart attack, lose control, or die.”
“I have upsetting thoughts and feel like I need to do specific things so that nothing bad happens.”
Type of Anxiety
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) .
The core symptoms of GAD is excessive worry, that is, worrying much more than other people. People with GAD worry excessively about everyday things including their health, finances, work and family. People with GAD struggle to control their worry. They recognise that their worry is excessive and that it affects their quality of life.
People with GAD also often experience physical symptoms that include muscle tension, feeling irritable, headaches, difficulty concentrating, trouble relaxing, trouble sleeping, abdominal distress and difficulty making decisions.
How Common is GAD?
GAD affects about 500,000 Australians.
GAD can be treated, regardless of age. Click here for further information.
Type of Anxiety
Panic Disorder and/or Agoraphobia.
The core symptom of Panic Disorder is excessive fear of having a panic attack. A panic attack is a short episode (about 10 minutes) during which a person experiences unpleasant and often terrifying physical symptoms. These symptoms often include a racing heart, dizziness, sweating, hyperventilation, chest pain and/or upset stomach. Because of these symptoms most people believe that they are going insane, having a heart attack or dying.
While most people will experience a panic attack at some time in their lives, people with Panic Disorder have excessive fear of having these episodes. People with Panic Disorder often also have Agoraphobia, which is when one avoids places because of worry that they will have a panic attack.
How Common is Panic Disorder?
Approximately 500,000 Australians have Panic Disorder each year.
Panic disorder can be treated, regardless of age. Click here for further information.
Type of Anxiety
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The core symptoms for all people with OCD are unwanted thoughts or mental images, which occur repeatedly. These are called obsessions. The content of the obsessions differs between people. Some people with OCD have obsessions about contamination, others have violent images, or unwanted sexual thoughts, or obsessions about losing control, or thoughts about religious rituals. People with OCD often feel very uncomfortable and distressed because of the obsessions.
To cope with the distress caused by the obsessions, many people with OCD (but not all) perform rituals called compulsions. Examples of compulsions include doing things like repeated washing and cleaning, checking things, or mental rituals.
International psychiatric classification systems have recently disagreed about whether OCD should be classified as an anxiety disorder. We continue to consider most forms of OCD as an Anxiety disorder due to the high levels of fear and distress resulting from the obsessions, and because OCD can often be effectively treated using psychological skills that help manage symptoms of other anxiety disorders.
How Common is OCD?
OCD affects about 300,000 Australians each year.
Many people experience an improvement in their OCD symptoms with treatment. Click here for further information
Type of Anxiety
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
People with PTSD have experienced or witnessed a very stressful or traumatic event. As a result, they experience long-term symptoms, which are distressing and affect their ability to live their lives the way they would like. These symptoms include distressing thoughts or nightmares about the traumatic event, sleep problems, feeling easily startled and on edge, becoming irritable and depressed, having difficulty concentrating and feeling unsafe. People with PTSD also often avoid people, places or other reminders of a traumatic event.
In addition to symptoms of anxiety, people with PTSD often also experience symptoms of depression such as feeling numb, tired, and lacking interest in doing things.
International psychiatric classification systems have recently disagreed about whether PTSD should be classified as an Anxiety Disorder. We continue to consider PTSD as an Anxiety Disorder due to the high levels of symptoms of fear and distress, and because PTSD can be effectively treated using psychological skills that help manage symptoms of other Anxiety Disorders.
How Common is PTSD?
About 1 million Australians experience PTSD every year.
Many people experience an improvement in their symptoms of PTSD with treatment. Click here for further information.
Treatment For Anxiety
Having an anxiety disorder does not mean that a person has a weak personality or a weak character. Instead we believe that people with an anxiety disorder often have not had a chance to learn about their symptoms, or have not had a chance to learn skills for managing these symptoms.
Anxiety disorders often restrict what people feel able to do. We know that many people with mild symptoms of anxiety still work, study and have healthy relationships, but that this is harder for people with moderate and severe anxiety. Some people with severe symptoms of anxiety have difficulty leaving the house or being alone. Some people with anxiety symptoms become worried that they can’t control their anxiety, and may become worried that they will become isolated, lonely, or depressed. People with anxiety disorders also have a higher risk of depression and substance use problems than other people.
The good news is that anxiety disorders can be treated, regardless of age. We also know that people who have symptoms of anxiety, but do not have a full anxiety disorder, can still benefit from learning the skills that are taught in psychological treatment programs. This is known as early intervention. Early intervention can stop symptoms from becoming chronic and severe. Getting effective treatment for an anxiety disorder often also has the effect of reducing symptoms of other psychological disorders, such as depression.
The first step in recovering from anxiety is to learn to recognise your own symptoms. This will help you to identify targets to work on in treatment. This can also help you recognise early warning signs of relapse once you have recovered. Please note that it is important that you see your doctor for a check up to rule out other causes for anxiety symptoms.
We believe that the best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning skills for managing these symptoms, and then gradually resuming your usual activities. Learning to beat anxiety takes courage, commitment and practice, but many people successfully learn to overcome symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders.
For further information about treatment options and assistance you can:
- Talk to your General Practitioner
- See a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or another mental health professional to learn to manage your symptoms
- Complete a MindSpot Clinic Online Screening Assessment to learn more about your symptoms and treatment options
- Find out about our MindSpot Clinic Courses for treating anxiety