Common manifestations of anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety, panic attacks and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These can be debilitating disorders but there are also many anxiety alleviating strategies that significantly improve people’s quality of life.
PROFESSOR GORDON PARKER (Executive Director at The Black Dog Institute): There are a number of anxiety disorders around. The most common one there is, we call generalised anxiety, which is really describing people who tend to worry excessively and often have physical symptoms like muscle tension, fatigue, sweating. And sometimes they’ll internalise, they’ll worry away and sometimes they’ll externalise with lots of irritability. That’s the commonest manifestation of anxiety. The next one is where somebody has a panic attack and these are very horrible experiences.
MYREE HARRIS RSJ (President, NSW State Advisory Committee on Mental Health): I knew a woman who told me that she used to wake up at the middle of the night, just in a sweat, in terror and she was having a panic attack.
PROFESSOR PARKER: As part of the life story though of somebody with panic attacks, they’ll frequently say “well I think certain situations bring it on”, so like going to the supermarket or being in a bus. And frequently they start to avoid the situations where they think it comes on. And the risk in that is their whole world can narrow down. They won’t go to the supermarket. They won’t go on the bus. They won’t go to a restaurant and they won’t go to a picture theatre. They tend to stay home, or if they go out of the home they may need a companion so a child or wear dark glasses, use a whole series of strategies because they see the world as dangerous, as a place where panic can come on.
DR BOB SERICH (Chair, National Mental Health and Homelessness Advisory Committee): You get a lot of physical symptoms that come with anxiety. You know you get the sort of lump in the throat, breathing difficulty, chest pain, churning gut, diarrhoea, sort of dry mouth and sweaty skin.
PROFESSOR PARKER: There are other expressions of anxiety for instance social phobia. We’re all social phobic to some degree where we feel that when we stand up in front of people that they are going to think were fools or that we might blush, so social anxiety is very common. And the final important group of anxiety disorders is Obsessive Compulsory Disorder. This is where somebody has an obsession like: “my house is incredibly dirty; the toilets are dirty; I must scrub them for three hours”. Then you get examples that become a little more unusual, such as, “I’m contaminated with germs so I will have to wash my left arm in the shower 27 times and my right 36”. So spend three hours in the shower, get out not be sure if you did it 27 and 36 times respectively and go back in and do it again. This can be very severe and very troubling. And with these people the usual strategy is to settle the anxiety and then sometimes they end up in emergency departments sometimes they can be talked out and then they are given a whole series of anxiety relieving strategies
DR SERICH: If a person been anxious for long enough, they get depressed.
PROFESSOR GORDON PARKER: All the anxiety disorders significantly increase your chance of developing depression and by major factor, each of them.