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Anxiety Treatment

You can find treatment for Anxiety with both public and private healthcare.

Anxiety can be a manageable mental health condition, but if left untreated, can have negative effects on people's lives. Luckily, there are many highly accessible treatment options in Australia.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a sense of fear, nervousness, worry or stress that sticks around longer than it should. It is normal to feel afraid going down a dark alley at night in a bad neighbourhood or to feel nervous about your first major public speech. It becomes anxiety when you get too scared to walk down any alley in any neighbourhood, or if you get the jitters every time you open your mouth to talk to someone.

Anxiety comes in many forms, but here are the most common:

  • Social anxiety. This is when you get uncommonly nervous in most social situations, from small gatherings to large events.
  • Generalised anxiety. This is when you carry around a constant sense of worry.
  • Panic attacks. This is when you get a strong, sudden sense of doom that makes your heart race and your breath shallow.
  • Phobias. This is when you have a strong, unnatural fear of something specific, such as germs or heights.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Even though there are a few different types of anxiety, they all share many of the same symptoms. The symptoms listed below can have other causes besides anxiety, so you'll need to check with your doctor to determine whether your symptoms are related to anxiety or to something else.

Common symptoms associated with anxiety:
  • Shortness of breath/rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • The feeling of your heart "skipping a beat"
  • Sweating, especially around the forehead and palms
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling frazzled or restless

How can you deal with anxiety?

If you think you have more than just passing stress, the first thing you should do is see your GP who can help you lay out a treatment plan (more on this later in the guide). Besides following your doctor's treatment plan, there are plenty of activities you can do at a personal level to improve how you cope:

  • Work on your breathing. Anxiety has the tendency to make your breathing faster and shallower, so try reversing this pattern. When you notice you're anxious, just take a pause, get a feel for how you are breathing, and then start taking longer, slower and more deliberate breaths.
  • Cut down on caffeine and nicotine. These are stimulants that can make your anxiety worse by increasing both your heart rate and the speed of your thoughts.
  • Remove whatever is making you anxious. If you have the ability to remove the cause of your worry, then do it. If work makes you stressed, you may not be able to get rid of your boss, but you can get rid of that pile of papers that has been sitting on top of your desk for weeks.
  • Take up exercise. Regular exercise has been shown to have a positive long-term effect on anxiety. It helps release feel-good hormones while also strengthening your body's defences.
  • Talk to family and friends. One way to get things off your chest is to talk to someone you trust about what's making you anxious. If there's no one you feel comfortable talking to, then there are plenty of online forums where you can meet people with similar experiences.
  • Write it down. Transferring your anxious thoughts out of your head and onto the page is another way to release some of the pressure. There's no right or wrong way to do this. You can keep a standard diary, write poetry about your experiences or just write whatever pops into your head. It’s your choice.

Does anxiety happen in children?

Children are generally more resilient than adults and have the natural ability to get right back up after a fall. However, it's still possible for children to develop anxiety. One example is separation anxiety, in which children get upset when they are separated from their parents, such as at bedtime or when they are dropped off at school.

It is important to pick up on your child's anxiety sooner rather than later. Childhood is the time when people develop strategies for dealing with life and these strategies can turn into patterns that last a lifetime. Ideally, your child will develop healthy patterns around nervousness and stress rather than unhealthy patterns.

Here are some signs that your child could be dealing with anxiety. This is not a diagnosis, so be sure to see a doctor if you are unsure:

  • They avoid certain situations or issues, sometimes by acting like they're sick.
  • They have trouble falling asleep and/or they often have nightmares.
  • They act clingy and always ask for reassurance.
  • They always seem afraid and don't like to try new things.
  • They cry over small things.

What treatments are available for anxiety and depression?

The mental health field has made major strides in understanding anxiety and depression over the past couple of decades. If you need treatment for either of these conditions, there are more resources available than ever before.

Your GP will be the point person in most cases, so if you think you have anxiety or depression, see them first. From there, your GP may prescribe a mix of the following treatments:

  • Lifestyle changes. These are just simple changes you can make to your routine that might help reduce your anxiety or depression. Examples can be anything from taking up yoga to cutting down on caffeine to making your bed every morning.
  • Medication. GPs are able to prescribe a number of widely-used, safe and relatively effective medications for anxiety and depression. Sometimes one of these medications combined with lifestyle changes is enough to help people cope with their anxiety or depression.
  • Outpatient psychological therapy. If your GP thinks it could help to speak to someone you might need to "talk it out", they may refer you to a psychologist. When people say "counselling" or "therapy", they're usually talking about a session with a psychologist.
  • Outpatient psychiatric treatment. A psychiatrist is someone who is experienced in dealing with mental illnesses. If your GP thinks you need more comprehensive treatment, they'll refer you to a psychiatrist.
  • Inpatient psychiatric treatment and rehab. For more serious cases, you can get admitted to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. If drugs or alcohol are involved, rehab is possible too.

In 2018, the Australian government passed reforms making it easier for health insurance customers to access in-hospital mental health treatments. If you already have health insurance and it doesn't cover mental health treatment, you can now upgrade immediately and get treated right away, without needing to serve a waiting period. Your insurer is also no longer able to limit the number of times you can receive a specific treatment, like counselling sessions. So you can now get as many as you need.

Support is available

If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.

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Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment is not an endorsement and does not imply its appropriateness for your circumstances. Our information is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional and you should not rely on this general information for diagnosis or answers for your particular circumstances. Instead, seek advice from a registered health care professional. This content has been prepared for Australian audiences and was accurate at the time of publication but, over time, the currency and completeness of the published material may change.

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