Anxiety is an inevitable and a normal part of being human.
Imagine yourself in a jungle, and suddenly you see a lion approach you. Most likely you would respond with fear, which is helpful in times like these as this triggers our body to go through a series of changes that can help protect ourselves. For example, in this situation, the fear response would lead to us running away or physically defend ourselves. Using this primitive example, it demonstrates that fear is essential in surviving dangerous situations.
Anxiety also manifests in everyday situations – whether it is a job interview, an exam, an important work meeting or a big date. Another example is when athletes feel some anxiety prior to competing in a big game. Some anxiety in these types of situations can actually provide focus and energy to allow us to do our best.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it is continuous and extreme. As abovementioned, some levels of anxiety can be expected, and is even helpful, in certain situations (eg a job interview). However, when anxiety is excessive, uncontrollable, and persistent, it becomes a problem as it interferes with your wellbeing and ability to go about day-to-day life. When this occurs, it is often referred to as an anxiety disorder.
Some examples of common anxiety-related issues and disorders include:
- Panic attacks and Panic Disorder
- Social anxiety
- Health anxiety
- Chronic and excessive worrying (Generalised Anxiety)
- Phobias and fears
When anxiety becomes uncontrollable, it impacts our ability to enjoy life and achieving what we want. It can also interfere with our relationships, prevent us from doing the things we want or need to do, and it may also have a negative impact on our self-esteem and confidence. When we feel excessively anxious, it can also lead to feeling depressed and isolated which makes it even more difficult.
Over the years, many research studies have been dedicated to enhance the understanding and treatment of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. A skilled psychologist can assist in identifying the causes and maintaining factors of your specific anxiety, and how to overcome it. There are also things that people tend to do to reduce anxiety in the short term that only exacerbate it for the long term. Effective treatment of anxiety goes beyond general counselling and relaxation exercises. An effective treatment plan can help you understand the underlying factors that drive your anxiety, identify techniques to help manage anxiety, and ensure sustainable changes to maintain healthy levels of anxiety for the long-term.
Maria Faustino (AssocMAPS; B Psych Hons).
Registered Psychologist at Marquee Health Clinic.