By Quilla Watt, Integrative Naturopath
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, affecting 1 in 4 people. Chances are, you or someone you know experience anxiety. There are many types of anxiety – the most common anxiety disorders in Australia are PTSD, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive–compulsive disorder.
What is anxiety?
The main feature of anxiety is persistent, excessive worry that can be so distressing it can affect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Anxiety can be an incredibly debilitating condition– it can affect your relationships with family and friends, and your ability to work or study. The good news is that with the right treatment, most people are able to manage their anxiety and lead healthy, happy lives.
What are the causes of anxiety? Many things can contribute to anxiety, including genetics, stressful or traumatic life events, family environment, personality traits, and imbalances in brain chemicals.
Symptoms of anxiety The key symptom of anxiety is persistent, excessive worry, often for no apparent reason. People often experience racing heart, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle tension, shaking, and feeling faint. Some people with anxiety experience intense, irrational fears of everyday objects or situations; compulsions and obsessions that can't be controlled; and panic attacks. Others only experience anxiety in social situations. People with anxiety may also suffer from depression, and may have problems with drug and alcohol abuse.
Treatment options for anxiety
It is a natural instinct to feel fear or worry in certain situations, and it is difficult in today’s society not to feel stressed or anxious at times. However, the persistent and excessive worry of anxiety can be incredibly disabling, and it is important to seek help. Correct treatment can help people manage and reduce their anxiety. At the Health Lodge, our practitioners work together to provide an integrated team approach designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
- Medical and naturopathic management: Your GP and naturopath may look for nutritional and biochemical drivers that might be underlying the anxiety. Depending on severity, your GP may recommend medication to reduce anxiety in the short-term while addressing the underlying factors.
- Psychology: You psychologist can help educate you about anxiety and guide you in developing techniques to manage your anxiety. Therapy may include facing fears and learning to break them down, learning how to problem solve, building self-esteem, and nurturing mindfulness. Our psychologist Simon talks about his Top 6 Mindfulness apps here.
- Acupuncture: Many people find acupuncture effective in managing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are on a mental health plan, our acupuncturist Becky offers 10 sessions of acupuncture at a reduced rate of $60, which can be used over 12 weeks.
What can you start now?
There are some simple strategies that you can introduce now to help you manage feelings of anxiety.
In managing anxiety it is important to avoid things that are going to stimulate you further. Things at pep you up, including coffee, coke, energy drinks, and nicotine are going to heighten feelings of nervous energy and tension and are a good idea to avoid.
Magnesium and B vitamins are important nutrients in coping with stress, and deficiencies in these can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Try to include foods high in magnesium and B vitamins such as leafy green vegetables and wholegrains.
- Exercise: Physical activity is a great way to manage anxiety. Exercise promotes relaxation, helps the brain switch off, and burns up those stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Try to exercise 3-4 three to four times a week. Group sports are an excellent way to exercise, helps with feelings of isolation, and prevents the boredom that plagues exercise routines.
- Relaxation: Relaxation exercises including meditation, yoga, guided breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation help to decrease anxiety. Try to practice relaxation exercises every day, even of only for short periods.
The information in this section is of a general nature only, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultations with your health care provider. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any therapies, especially as they may interact with your medications.