Anxiety – a common and treatable medical condition.

Everyone gets stressed from time to time - that’s completely normal. What isn’t normal is when anxiety becomes a daily, all-consuming experience that ruins your quality of life, both for you as the sufferer, and sometimes for friends and family as well.

Anxiety is one of the top health concerns seen in Australia today, and this blog article discusses what it is, how it feels and what can be done to help.

When is anxiety regarded as a medical condition?

This is when the anxious feelings don’t pass off, and you feel in a state of constant tension. Small things that we would normally shrug off trigger an exaggerated “flight or fight” response, or feelings of panic. We might get physical symptoms such as a tight chest, pounding heart, shaking, or a sense that something awful is going to happen. The body is producing too much adrenaline. This in itself can affect sleep and cause us to feel constantly exhausted and negative about the future.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is usually caused by a combination of factors. Family history and genetics plays a part, as does our early upbringing and childhood. Social pressures, work stress, family issues, a sense of falling behind how everyone else seems to have “perfect lives”, physical illness, major upheavals – they all play their part. We often see anxiety in adolescents to do with school performance, exams and peer pressure. Today’s society is very demanding, and we often don’t get the family support we might have done generations ago.

When should you seek help?

If your anxiety has been going on for two weeks or more and is affecting your quality of life, it’s time to think about getting some assistance. Most people wait far too long which can just make the recovery process all the more complicated.

What can be done to help?

Firstly, when you choose to reach out for help – well done! It’s not easy acknowledging that things aren’t going according to plan – it takes courage. But having crossed that obstacle, you will feel like a great weight has been lifted off your shoulders and may start to look forwards again to a more normal life.

Coming in to see your GP is a great first step. We can talk through what’s going on, support you and start to give you options for improving your situation. This may include:

A referral to a psychologist. Psychologists are experts in providing “talking” therapies and strategies to help you understand where the feelings are coming from and how they can be tackled. We work closely with various local psychologists and can often organise a referral through a “GP Mental Health Plan”, which gives you the advantage of getting significant Medicare rebates to help cover the costs of private psychologists.

A referral to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors that can help clarify exactly what is your diagnosis and prescribe advanced medications. This is very helpful in more complex or long-term cases, or where you may have not responded to first-line treatments. At Azure, we are fortunate to have our own in-house psychiatrist, Dr Chacko Varughese, available for consultations.

Medication. These have improved massively in the last few years, and in the right situation can give great relief from anxiety symptoms with minimal side effects. Modern medications are almost always non-addictive, unlike the Valiums, etc. of the past, and can safely be used long term. Often, we use medications as just part of your treatment, combined with counselling and psychology input.

Hypnotherapy. Dr Merci Kusel, one of our female GP’s, has special training in the use of hypnotherapy to tackle mood problems such as anxiety and phobias. This is a technique that can help to root out deep seated, even subconscious, negative thought patterns and reprogram a more positive and normal functioning of the brain.

Self-help. It’s critical to think about adopting some effective self-help strategies to employ every day. These include meditation, mindfulness, Yoga and regular exercise. Sleep hygiene, avoiding caffeine and minimising alcohol usage can make enormous differences.

Anxiety is a very common problem, affecting children right through to the elderly, and we encourage you to seek help if you think that anxiety might be affecting you.

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