Statistics tell us that Anxiety and panic are among the most common mental disorders in Australia, with only one third of sufferers seeking treatment each year. The average age for onset of anxiety disorders in Australia is age 11, and panic age 5. As anxiety can seep into other conditions such as depression and mood disorders, finding the right treatment approach is dependant on how damaging the symptoms are for the individual. Anxiety can often take on physical symptoms which can be so intense and crippling that they interfere with daily living. If the symptoms get to this point of debilitation, then it might be time to speak to a professional who can set you up with tools to manage the disorder.
Any stressful situation with evokes anxiety is a normal, natural, reactionary response to anything we may find threatening. The physiological symptoms of anxiety can sometimes be referred to as a ‘fight or flight’ response; your body stimulates a physical response to stress/threat so that your mind can act accordingly; that is, to ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ (run). Without this response, we wouldn’t have the ‘fight’ in us to push through in a stressful exam, or — to a greater extent — run away from a potentially life threatening situation. Common triggering factors can include: starting a new job, a traumatic event, abuse, pregnancy or giving birth, or the death of a loved one. Although this kind of anxious response is healthy – and necessary – if you find yourself in a state of extreme nervousness all the time, and for no apparent reason (that you’re aware of), this could be a sign of a (treatable) psychological disorder. These disorders can fall under many different streams: panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and generalised anxiety disorder. When persistent anxious thoughts or irrational fear begin to take over your life, it may be time to seek help in managing these symptoms and overcome the worry.
If you are suffering from anxiety, please know — you’re not alone! Anxiety is the most common mental illness in Australia, and is estimated to affect 2 million people every year. It may commonly occur in combination with depression or drug and alcohol abuse, but is seen to effect each individual differently.
How do I know if I have an Anxiety Disorder?
Indeed, a normal level of anxiety if necessary, but if you find your symptoms are having a crippling or debilitating effect, you shouldn’t have to suffer through these difficulties alone. A Psychologist is trained to help you overcome these challenges, and help you live a normal and healthy life. If you’re not sure about you’re symptoms, or perhaps you’ve become so used to feeling anxious that you’re confused about what a healthy level of anxiety should feel like, compare you’re symptoms to those listed below.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder:
Anxiety disorders have a range of symptoms, all of which may vary in severity. These include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate or heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Muscle tension
- Vomiting or nausea
- Dry mouth and inability to talk
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Difficulty concentrating
I stood there- paralysed, heart racing, palms sweating, chest tight, my mouth completely dried up, hands and feet tingling, adrenaline pumping… I was feeling sick to my stomach because I had just imagined all the possible things that could go wrong at tonight’s dinner party. Does this sound familiar to you? Maybe replace this scenario with “I’d just seen a spider”, or “I’d just thought my partner could be having an affair”, or “I’d just said something stupid out loud to a group of people”, or “I’d just received a promotion at work”, or what about “I’d just woken up”.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), sometimes called general anxiety or just anxiety, is a leading mental illness. More than 15% of Australians experience generalised anxiety every year, and the results can be catastrophic. Anxiety not only interferes with your sense of well-being but can also make it difficult to work, sustain healthy relationships, sleep, eat and perform other daily tasks.
We all get anxious from time to time. Indeed, without anxiety, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves in dangerous situations. The adrenaline-induced fight-or-flight reaction is what enables you to run from a predator, take swift action to protect your family, and set goals designed to reduce health stress. In some people, though, this natural reaction escalates out of control. Generalised anxiety disorder causes you to experience chronic anxiety for no specific reason. Of course, life is full of anxiety, so it’s always easy to find something on which to blame your anxiety. When one source of anxiety – such as seeing the dentist, or awaiting results of a medical test – disappears, your brain moves on to finding another source. With generalised anxiety disorder, the anxiety never lifts.
What Are the Symptoms of General Anxiety?
So how can you tell the difference between “normal” anxiety and an anxiety disorder? Symptoms of a normal anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling anxious for no reason, or experiencing intense anxiety in response to relatively minor stressors.
- Waking up anxious.
- Being unable to sleep because of anxiety.
- Nightmares and disturbing dreams.
- Experiencing physical nervousness, such as a pit in your stomach, sweating, or panic attacks.
- Difficulty functioning in frightening situations. You might, for example, be unable to carry on a conversation when you’re feeling anxious.
- Avoidance of sources of anxiety. Rather than trying to get over the anxiety, most people with anxiety disorders engage in perpetual avoidance.
What Causes General Anxiety?
Like most mental health conditions, generalised anxiety disorder doesn’t have a single cause. Instead, the disorder is likely caused by a complex interaction between several different risk factors. Some people, though, will get anxiety despite having no risk factors; others fail to develop the condition even when they have every risk factor:
- An insecure environment; people living in abusive or dangerous situations may become chronically anxious.
- Genetic and biological factors.
- A family history of anxiety; when a parent or sibling repeatedly behaves anxiously, it’s easy to learn this behaviour such that it feels natural and normal.
- Experiencing a traumatic event, such as a rape or child abuse.
- An introverted personality.
- A history of other forms of mental illness.
What is Social Anxiety?
Everyone feels shy or anxious from time to time, but social anxiety goes much deeper than normal social jitters. People with social anxiety feel terror around others, and may be so debilitated by their anxiety that they cease attempting to create new relationships. Social anxiety is intensely isolating.
Many people with the condition desperately seek connections (we all do!), but don’t have the skills necessary to overcome their anxiety and build strong relationships. Without connections and valuable relationships, you can easily find yourself thrown into a cycle of self-loathing, depression, and isolation. For some, the fear of social interaction is so strong that they develop agoraphobia: a fear of leaving the home. Others experience intense panic attacks that can make it frightening to be alone in public or interfere with their ability to interact socially.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?
If you think you have social anxiety, check out these common symptoms:
- Persistently avoiding social situations.
- Sacrificing career or educational goals because of fear about social interactions
- Experiencing anxiety or panic during social interactions
- Being preoccupied with concerns that people don’t like you or are judging you
- Being afraid to leave your home
The physical and psychological symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:
- An urge to flee from the social situation
- Perspiration and sweaty palms
- Muscle tension
- Stomach pain
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth and difficulty talking
- Feeling faint or light-headed
- Feelings of self-doubt
- Difficulty concentrating
What Causes Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is not well-understood, which means that, as research progresses, we may gain keener insights into why some people experience social anxiety even as others do not. For now, we know that a number of risk factors increase your likelihood of developing social anxiety. These include:
- A family history of social anxiety. Children of people with social anxiety may develop the condition through genetic means, or could “learn” social anxiety after a lifetime of watching mum or dad struggle with it.
- A history of trauma. People who have experienced violence at the hands of other people are especially vulnerable to social anxiety.
- A prior history of mental illness
- A childhood history of abuse or trauma
- A recent life transition. Someone who’s recently gone through a divorce or moved halfway across the country may feel increasingly anxious in their new surroundings.
Of course, these are just risk factors. It’s possible to get social anxiety disorder for no clear reason, and many people with no risk factors at all also develop the condition. What matters most is not why you have social anxiety, but what you can do about it. And at Three Seas Counselling, we offer you world-class assistance to move beyond the pain of social anxiety.
How to Deal with Anxiety?
Excessive worry about future events, about past interactions, and about the endless number of possible outcomes to current situations activates our body’s natural physiological response to a threat. When we perceive a threat our body naturally prepares to fight or flight. Our body increases the ability to react quicker and with more power by increasing the heart rate, releasing adrenaline and other hormones, increasing our awareness via our senses, along with a number of other intricate physical responses.
Evolutionarily, the fight or flight response meant that our primitive ancestors instinctively prepared to fight or flee when they sensed a nearby threat to their survival. We continue to use this fight or flight response today in varying circumstances. In modern times, survival not only refers to our physical survival, but it also includes social survival or survival of the ego. A threat to our social standing, relationships, or personal success can activate the same fight or flight response that our ancestors would have experienced in the face of a sabre-toothed tiger. It is a natural, protective response system. However, this system can become a problem when we activate the fight or flight response based on our thoughts rather than the reality of a situation.
How Three Seas Counselling Treats General Anxiety
At Three Seas, we know that the prospect of seeking counselling can be scary for those already struggling with anxiety. You may worry about whether what you say will be kept confidential, how effective therapy actually is, or how long therapy will take. We work with you to assuage these fears. Together we’ll develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on your values and needs.
You might not realise it yet, but you think a number of thoughts that make you feel more anxious. Likewise, your anxiety causes you to behave in ways that actually make your fear worse. For instance, you might anxiously delay asking your boss for time off, thereby eliminating your chance at a much-needed vacation. Three Seas works with you to determine how your thoughts affect your behaviour and how your behaviour affects your anxiety. Anxiety is not your fault, but you may be surprised to learn how quickly things can get better if you’re willing to make a few small changes.
The symptoms and commonly associated mental health issues of anxiety can be debilitating for the sufferer. The effects on the person caring for the sufferer can also be extreme and are often overlooked.
How Three Seas Counselling Treats Social Anxiety
As with other anxiety disorders, social anxiety is often found in connection with other mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem and alcohol and drug abuse. It is important to seek help if you are experiencing stress and anxiety in social contexts. Social anxiety can be treated using medical (drug) or psychological approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Three Seas offers intensive counselling that can help you:
- Understand why you are anxious
- Dissect choices that may be contributing to your anxiety
- Offer you coping mechanisms
- Help you master new social skills
- Offer you a path out of anxiety
Our counsellors work with you to develop a custom-tailored plan that will treat your anxiety in a way that feels safe and comfortable. We offer confidential, judgment-free settings where you can safely explore your emotions. We know it’s not easy to seek counselling when you struggle with social anxiety, but we use the therapeutic relationship as a testing ground for working beyond anxiety. You can get better, but you won’t without treatment. Let Three Seas do the heavy lifting to pull you out of a life of anxiety and into a life of engaged social commitments.
Anxiety in Children
Anxiety in children occurs when it interferes with a child’s ability to live their life. About a quarter of children struggle with anxiety disorders. If your child is plagued by chronic anxiety, it’s easy to feel hopeless, and perhaps even to blame your child for his or her emotions. Anxiety in children is a normal part of life, but an anxiety disorder occurs when anxiety either interferes with your child’s ability to live her life or when the anxiety is not appropriate for the situation. For instance, a child who experiences panic attacks before going to school might have an anxiety disorder, while a child who gets anxious before a test probably doesn’t.
The good news is that anxiety is treatable, and treatment doesn’t always mean putting your child on powerful medication. Counselling can work wonders with even the most anxious of children, and at Three Seas, we specialise in childhood anxiety disorders. Here are five things you need to know if your child struggles with anxiety.
Family Factors Can Cause Anxiety
When one member of your family struggles with anxiety, the entire family suffers. For this reason, we offer both family and individual counselling when children struggle with anxiety. Couples counselling as a whole is also a good way of addressing anxiety in each partner. The right family environment can make a meaningful difference in your ability to handle your child’s emotions. We’ll work with you to help you:
- Institute effective discipline that doesn’t cause anxiety.
- Talk to your other children about your child’s anxiety.
- Explore how your family dynamic might make your child more vulnerable to anxiety.
- Address whether any adults in the family are “teaching” their anxiety to your child. Oftentimes, children become anxious because they’ve seen their parents struggle with anxiety.
Less Self-Control Over His or Her Anxiety
When kids are overwhelmed with anxiety, it can look a lot like they have control over their emotions. After all, many anxious kids are able to conceal their feelings around friends, or may not show symptoms at school or during extracurricular activities. Don’t be fooled, though. Anxiety is a biological issue, not something your child is choosing. After all, who would willingly choose to feel miserable and frightened all the time? If it seems like your child’s in control, it’s more likely that your child feels less anxiety in some contexts than in others. By exploring his or her triggers for anxiety, you can more effectively help him or her.
Diet and Exercise Can Contribute to Anxiety
Your body is a lot like a machine. Fill it up with shoddy fuel, and it will quickly malfunction. But offer your child’s body lots of anxiety-fighting nutrients, and their brain will work at optimal capacity. While dietary changes rarely eliminate anxiety altogether, they can make a meaningful difference. And research consistently shows that exercise has the power to undermine both depression and anxiety in children. To get the most benefits, encourage your child to get between 30 and 60 minutes of moderate exercise each day, but don’t push your child; pressuring a child to exercise can have serious negative consequences.
If you’re interested in exploring dietary changes, try some of these tips:
- Minimize the use of caffeine, refined sugars, and energy drinks.
- Encourage your child to drink 8 glasses of water each day.
- Ask your doctor about the right multivitamin for your child.
- Offer your child lots of fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and lean proteins
Anxiety Can Harm Health
Think your child’s anxiety will fade with time or that chronic stress is no big deal? Think again. Anxiety in children is a serious, and potentially life-threatening, problem. The longer your child’s body is exposed to chronic anxiety, the worse the health consequences will become, but a few of the health effects of anxiety include:
Headaches, muscle aches, and chronic pain
- Decreased immunity
- Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Weight gain
- Difficulty with attention
- High blood pressure
- Increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol addiction
Your child’s anxiety is undermining his or her health, and the longer such anxiety lasts, the harder it will be to treat. We can help you get the treatment you need for dealing with anxiety in children—and the peace your child deserves—today.
Anxiety Can Undermine Academic Performance
Anxiety in children at school: Testing anxiety can dramatically affect your child’s school performance, and generalized anxiety may undermine your child’s ability to listen, behave in class, or understand what the teacher is saying. Once anxiety undermines a child’s academic performance, that child may feel stigmatized. Worse still, this process can cause a child to stop trying, leading to even more academic problems. You won’t know your child’s full academic potential until you help him or her learn to manage anxiety.
The Three Seas knows how painful it can be to manage a child with a mental health problem.
Eliminate Anxiety with A More Peaceful Mind
Our minds can have a powerful and convincing influence over our ability to judge whether a certain situation, interaction, or impending circumstance is actually a threat to us or not. When our minds trick us into believing a threat is real and present, it can cause an uncomfortable physiological reaction.
But what are these threats?
What is it that our mind is tricking us into believing?
Understanding this is one of the first steps to taking control over your anxiety. Provoking thoughts can come in all shapes and sizes but the central factor in the symptomatology of anxiety is worrisome thoughts that just grow bigger and more real, rather than go away. Some people are threatened by the idea that our significant others will abandon them; leaving them rejected and unloved. For others, constant worry about an imminent catastrophe paralyses their ability to judge the likelihood of such an event occurring. We can become anxious about our health, public speaking, feeling like an imposture, not being good enough, being unlovable, how untrustworthy other people are, rejection, our safety, the safety of others… the list goes on. The common theme here is that we tend to feel trapped by this uncomfortable thought and, no matter how illogical our panic may be, the thought can be so convincingly real that our body has to react.
Living with it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and there are many ways in which we can try to take control over the incessant mind traps we fall into. At The Three Seas Psychology Group, our psychologists are highly qualified and experienced in helping people to overcome and develop a more peaceful and less reactive mind.
Call today and make an appointment to free yourself from this paralysing condition (03) 9809 1000