RESOURCES FOR ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Everyone feels anxious from time to time when they are under pressure. An anxiety disorder is when fear takes over your thoughts and coping everyday life becomes difficult. People who have anxiety have a constant feeling that something terrible is going to happen, even if there is no reason to believe this.
Anxiety sufferers are continually assessing their situation and predicting that they will not be able to cope with it or they will do something embarrassing.
The fear they experience might cause them to freeze, avoid the situation, or become aggressive or restless. They will also experience physical changes, such as a racing heartbeat.
Approximately 30 per cent of Australians will experience some type of anxiety disorder at some stage in their life.
CAUSES OF ANXIETY
Many factors can contribute to anxiety and often several causes are identified. One of the common causes is hereditary. People who have a history of anxiety or other mental health challenges in their family have a higher risk of developing anxiety, although they won’t always experience it.
Similarly to depression, certain events and life circumstances can also bring about anxiety. Some of the major stressors are a high pressure work environment, relationship and family challenges, death or sexual, physical or verbal abuse. All of these experiences leave emotional scars and if untreated, they can affect an individual’s ability to cope with everyday situations.
Research has shown that our physical body is closely linked to our mental health. Therefore, dealing with a serious illness or injury can be a trigger for anxiety.
Another cause of anxiety is alcohol and drug abuse. Some people turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for their anxiety. Unfortunately, when the effects of the substance wear off, they are likely to become more anxious, which leads to a vicious cycle.
People who have some particular character traits are more inclined to have anxiety than others. Shy people, people with low self-esteem, perfectionists and avoiders are all more at risk of having anxiety.
If you feel your anxiety may be caused by one or more of these factors, we can help
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
The experience of anxiety is different from person to person. However, the biggest sign that you or someone you know has anxiety is continuous worry or distressing thoughts that interfere with day to day life.
Some other symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Avoiding doing things
- Short temper
- Hot and cold flushes
- Tightness in the chest
- Obsessive compulsive behaviour
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Constricted breathing
- Nausea or upset stomach
If you’re finding it hard to cope and sick of struggling
speak to us for alternative ways to treat your anxiety
TYPES OF ANXIETY
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder feel anxious most of the time and worry excessively about whatever is happening in their lives and their family and friends. They are unable control or cope with the constant worry and as a result, they have difficulty concentrating, they become restless and have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.
People with a specific phobia experience tremendous anxiety and fear if they are near an object they are scared of or they are put in a situation they are afraid of. Common phobias include the fear of flying, animals, needles or heights.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As the name suggests, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety that occurs as a result of experiencing a traumatic event. The affected person continuously relives the event in their mind, either when they are awake, or asleep, or both. They are often tense or sensitive about things that remind them of the event.
When people have social anxiety, they become very anxious about other people criticising them or judging them. They will stop spending time with friends and avoid going to social events because they are scared they will embarrass or humiliate themselves.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when an individual has frequent distressing thoughts (obsessions) and takes repeated specific actions (compulsions) to alleviate these thoughts. These compulsions can take over a person’s life. Even though OCD sufferers usually know their thoughts are irrational, their fear is so strong that they are unable to control them. An example is someone who repeatedly washes their hands due to the fear that germs will harm them.
Panic Disorder occurs when a person has recurring sudden panic attacks or is consistently scared they will have a panic attack. When people have a panic attack, they feel overwhelmingly scared, their heart rate increases, they have difficulty breathing and feel like they are choking, they become sweaty, dizzy and light headed. Panic attacks can last up to half an hour, with the symptoms being at their worst for a few minutes. Some people experience panic attacks very regularly, while others only have a panic attack every few years. Many people have one or two panic attacks throughout their life; however this doesn’t mean they have a panic disorder.
People with anxiety can often have two or more types of anxiety disorders at the same time. If you are concerned about having an anxiety disorder it is important to speak to your doctor or mental health professional to determine the best treatment for you.
TREATMENT FOR ANXIETY
The first step in managing anxiety is to determine which situations make you anxious. Recognising worrying thoughts can help you find ways to deal with the situations that are causing anxiety. Identify specifically what is causing you to have trouble coping. One way to do this is to keep a diary of when, where and why you feel anxious and what symptoms you are experiencing.
Psychological treatment, particularly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), is a very effective treatment for anxiety. CBT is based on the idea that it is not the situations we encounter that lead to anxiety, but the meaning we attach to them and the way we react to them that determines how we feel. Psychologists use CBT to treat people with anxiety by helping them realise they can chose what they think and feel and providing strategies to assist them to think more positively.
Specifically, CBT helps you become aware of your negative thoughts, challenge these thoughts and search for a more positive thought to replace the negative thought. It also teaches you to distract yourself from the negative thoughts and recognise and dispute the underlying beliefs that lead to the negative thoughts.
A psychologist can discuss the various positive thinking techniques available and recommend the best one/s for each individual.
SELF HELP AND ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS
One of the symptoms of anxiety is rapid breathing, which can lead to feeling light headed and confused. Breathing exercises slow down breathing and reduce the associated symptoms. Techniques such as counting your breaths (e.g breathing in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts) or repeating a relaxing phrase in your mind as you breathe (e.g. I breathe in calm, I breathe out peace) are useful.
People with anxiety often have difficulty relaxing. Learning relaxation techniques can help individuals feel calmer, release muscle tension and get more control over their anxiety.
Progressive muscle relaxation, visualising relaxing scenes, yoga and meditation are all good ways to relax the mind and body.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing and then relaxing specific groups of muscles.
Positive self-talk redirects the brain from worrying thoughts to encouraging ones. This might mean catching yourself thinking something distressing and replacing that thought with a coping statement, such as “Stay calm and take it one step at a time” or “I’ve done this before, I can do it again”.
Another option is to distract yourself with a pleasant thought. The brain is only able to focus on one thing at a time, so actively choosing a positive thought will block out the negative one.
If you would like some specific strategies to help you think more positively, our coaches can help.
Do something enjoyable every day – Having some leisure time to do something you enjoy will distract you from your worries. For example, relax at a cafe, get into nature, read a book, play a game or have a bath.
Regular exercise – Exercising regularly helps reduce anxiety as it releases endorphins and is a good way to let off stress.
Drink less caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you alert and awake. It also produces the same physical response in your body that occurs when you are stressed. Drinking too much coffee increases tension, which makes you more susceptible to anxiety.
Drink less alcohol – People with anxiety sometimes turn to alcohol to calm them down. Although alcohol has a sedative effect, it actually increases anxiety in the long term.
Time-management – Having a busy lifestyle can be stressful and increased stress can lead to anxiety. Plan and schedule your time and also allow for some flexibility in case things don’t go to plan.
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