Anxiety is an experience that, for many, can feel unexpected when it first occurs. We’re used to feelings of nervousness or intermittent anxiety: the way you may feel before a big presentation, the negative feelings that can occur from a disagreement with a friend or family member, uncertainty over future outcomes. However, while intermittent anxiety is a normal part of life, regular, persistent and intense anxiety is attributable to anxiety disorders. These may involve episodes of sudden and intense anxiety, which can also result in panic attacks that arise seemingly out of the blue.

 

Recent global events and pressures have led to an increase in the levels of individuals reaching out for mental health support. In a four-week period across August/September 2021, Lifeline Australia saw an increase in historical daily call volume, with calls up 14.1% and 33.1% for the same periods in 2020 and 2019. At the same time, Kids Helpline received over 32,500 answerable contact attempts.

 

The latest data from The Banyans shows that mental health enquiries into the service for anxiety support have soared 264% from 2021 to 2022. As the most significant recorded increase in the group’s history, the demand for these services highlights the need for adequate and holistic support for patients.

 

Anxiety can have an immense impact on everyday life. With anxiety affecting a wide range of age groups, understanding what is within the realms of the ‘normal’ human experience, and what has moved into an anxiety disorder territory, can build a firm foundation for a healthy approach to understanding our mental health needs and concerns.

 

Woman with insomnia
It’s important to be aware of your anxiety symptoms in order to be able to fully monitor our mental, emotional and physical health.

 

 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

The signs and symptoms of anxiety may present themselves differently from person to person. It’s important that we’re each aware of these symptoms in order to be able to fully monitor our mental, emotional and physical health.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • A constant sense of nervousness
  • Feeling restless
  • A sense of tension
  • A regular sense of panic, doom or imminent danger
  • Increases in heart rates
  • Hyperventilation
  • Increased sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weariness or fatigue
  • Challenges in concentration
  • Insomnia or sleep challenges
  • Digestion and gastrointestinal issues
  • An inability to control or manage worry or concern
  • The desire to avoid things, situation or people that may trigger anxiety

 

Anxiety can develop from a mix of genetic and environmental factors which may increase a person’s risk. It may arise as early as childhood or during the teenage years, or appear slowly or suddenly throughout adulthood.

 

Related blog: Anxiety and self-compassion – when it’s time to ask for help

 

Types of anxiety disorders

Multiple specific disorders sit under the umbrella of anxiety, with each disorder requiring different kinds of treatment and support.

These include:

  • Panic disorders – the continued experience of panic attacks at unexpected times
  • Phobias – excessive fears of certain situations, experiences or objects
  • Social anxiety disorder – an extreme and overt fear of being judged by others
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder – the reoccurrence of irrational thoughts that result in performing repeated behaviours
  • Separation anxiety disorder – a fear that arises from being aware from certain people or places
  • Illness anxiety disorder (formerly known as hypochondria) – excessive anxiety about your health
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – anxiety related to a traumatic experience

 

Woman breathing
The symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack include feeling faint or dizzy, experiencing a shortness of breath, dry mouth, excessive sweating, chills or hot flashes, an overwhelming sense of apprehension and worry, restlessness, distress, fear, and numbness or tingling.

 

 

Identifying anxiety or panic attacks

Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are intense attacks of fear and anxiety that arise without warning. They can slowly build over time, potentially as stressful events approach, but are likely to ‘hit’ out of the blue.

The symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack include feeling faint or dizzy, experiencing a shortness of breath, dry mouth, excessive sweating, chills or hot flashes, an overwhelming sense of apprehension and worry, restlessness, distress, fear, and numbness or tingling.

Panic attacks can be a surprising, confusing and intensely negative experience, particularly when experienced for the first time. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is one tool that can be used to help people who are experiencing panic attacks by aiming to shift the way you view challenging or scary situations, building new, healthier approaches. Certain medications can also assist in treating the symptoms of panic when they occur, but are only recommended for short-term use during a crisis.

Deep breathing is also a powerful tool used by many when in the midst of a panic attack. The ability to control breathing can lessen the impact of hyperventilation, which often serves to make a panic attack worse. This is also a great technique for those who experience panic attacks in the midst of environments where they’re looking to keep calm, as deep breathing can take place privately and quietly. Experts recommend breathing in for a count of four, holding for a second, and then exhaling for a count of four in order to access the benefits of deep breathing.

 

Below we hear from The Banyans Registered Psychologist, Dr Ruth Crowther, on the signs and symptoms to look out for if you think you may be suffering from anxiety, as well as some of the ways you can self manage anxiety.

 

When does anxiety need treatment

Anxiety may be self-managed with varying degrees of success. However, when anxiety feelings linger and begin to negatively impact on your day-to-day functionality, seeking the support of expert practitioners is a necessary step in finding a long-term approach to your mental health treatment.

Any treatment for anxiety will most likely begin with a conversation with your GP or with a mental health care professional. Here, you can identify the symptoms you’ve experienced to date, and may receive medication for the treatment of immediate symptoms.

A GP will most likely recommend the input and support of a mental health professional who can determine appropriate forms of psychotherapy and support from a psychologist. This kind of treatment can help to identify the underlying cause of an anxiety disorder, working towards a deep level of understanding and resolve that is only managed by medication, rather than healed.

 

 

Tips for self-managing

Seeking the input and support of professionals is a powerful step in the direction of management and healing for those working through mental health concerns. However, there are a number of tools that can be put to work to build your self-management capacities.

These include:

  • Connecting with someone you trust to share your experiences
  • Setting aside specific times to focus on your worries, rather than allowing them to flow throughout the entire day
  • Investing in your physical health by moving your body and feeding it well
  • Using breathing exercises when feelings of anxiety or panic occur
  • Keeping notes in a journal as to what you’re experiencing when, enabling you to spot patterns in triggers or early signs of what’s to come

 

 

Finding additional support from professionals

The Banyans Anxiety Management Program
Delivered by qualified professionals in one-on-one sessions, The Banyans Anxiety Management Program sessions are tailored to you and your goals.

 

Anxiety disorders can be managed and often resolved through the input of supportive and experienced expert practitioners. The Banyans’ Anxiety Management Program is designed to equip individuals to develop coping techniques, better identify their symptoms and triggers, and learn how to manage their anxiety in order to thrive in all aspects of their lives. If you’re looking to find support for your anxiety, reach out to our friendly team and begin your journey towards wellness.