This week Beyond Blue released it’s Get To Know Anxiety campaign to raise awareness about anxiety. At the same time alarming figures from a recent survey revealed that one in five Australians believe people experiencing anxiety ‘put it on’ to avoid difficult or uncomfortable situations and around half of Australians don’t know basic facts about the condition.
These are really interesting findings given the enormity of the condition.
Anxiety is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the world, it is the most common mental health condition in Australia and in any given year, over 3 million Australians are suffering with it. So, given anxiety is so common, and such a debilitating condition, it is odd that there are still many people out there that believe people ‘put it on.’
It makes me wonder whether a) people need a lot more education on the condition and/or b) they are actually experiencing the symptoms of anxiety themselves and are not owning up to it. In fact, might even be denying that they are suffering with it (we get a bit funny about vulnerability, don’t we?).
So what I thought I would do is tell you a bit more so you can be more supportive of those around you and maybe even more kind to yourself (just in case you actually have it too). The more you know about something, the less you will fear it, and then you can get on with the task of finding out ways of fighting it.
You might know a little about anxiety because after all, everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time. Maybe when you are speaking in public, worried about your relationship or work, going through some financial difficulty or feeling stressed out because you have too much on. Not a nice feeling.
For some people, however, it is so much more than that. Anxiety becomes so forceful and intense, that it begins to take over their lives. So much so that it encroaches on every aspect of it.
Anxiety is an emotion that manifests itself into a physical response that allows us to react quickly to a real or perceived threat. This response is called the “fight or flight” mechanism. When the anxiety response is too intense or happens a lot, it can lead to long-term anxiety conditions.
Anxiety manifests itself physically. So nausea, an irritable bowel or even heartburn can indicate anxiety. More well known would be a racing heart, which evidently often makes people panic more because it feels like a heart attack.
Anxiety might be the reason you can’t get to sleep at night, or the reason you wake up through the night. It might be why you often find yourself lying awake, worried or agitated — whether it be about specific problems or even nothing in particular. Anxiety might be the reason you wake up feeling wired with a racing mind, unable to calm yourself down.
Anxiety might be the feeling of dread that comes over you when you have to take part in social situations, even though perhaps in the past you quite enjoyed them. Anxiety might be the reason why you are so irritable and the reason you are getting angry with everyone around you.
Anxiety might be the reason why you can’t go a day without alcohol, or the reason why you can’t stop smoking. It might be the reason you can’t shake those drugs. Anxiety might be the reason you stopped pursuing your dreams, lost all your confidence and now you are just doing things that feel mediocre.
Anxiety might be the reason you want to avoid aspects of your life, and all the things that probably made you once enjoy life. Anxiety might be the reason you would prefer to stay in your comfort zone, which ultimately has become uncomfortable. Anxiety might be the reason that is limiting your potential.
Anxiety is more than just worrying and feeling nervous – it is so much more.
The other thing to note in the recent Beyond Blue results were that there is a large proportion of individuals out there who are unaware that anxiety can be managed and successfully treated.
For some it can be treated really quickly, for others a little longer. But there are many techniques that individuals can learn to nip anxiety in the bud. It is amazing what people can do in their lives once the cloud of anxiety is removed. Can you imagine what your life would be like, if anxiety wasn’t in control?
Saying people ‘put it on’ won’t help. Saying it doesn’t exist won’t make it go away. Ignoring it won’t help. Denying it won’t make it go away.
Understanding it will help, talking about it will, reaching for help will and learning tools and techniques to manage it will.
So for those of you ticking the “some people put anxiety on” box in these surveys– you get marked wrong. It does.
Get to know anxiety.
If we all start operating with a bit more knowledge then we can all take the next step and get a little help.