What is Clinical Anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety and stress from time to time. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between anxiety in response to a stressful situation and actually being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a mental health disorder, and there are many different types of anxiety disorders.
Is Anxiety Normal?
Absolutely! It’s unlikely that there’s a single person in the world that hasn’t experienced anxiety at one point or another.
Anxiety helps us to work harder, study harder and achieve what we otherwise wouldn’t if we didn’t have that internal push. It’s a normal response to pressure and that feeling usually passes once the situation has passed. However sometimes that feeling of worry, nervousness or unease becomes overwhelming and continues on even after stressful situations have passed. It can cause butterflies in your stomach, shortness of breath, a racing pulse or even chest pain.
Anxiety is not always related to an underlying condition or cause. Instead, stress, relationships, work, financial and emotional concerns can all contribute to it. In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience this type of anxiety in their lifetime.
When the worry and anxiety become debilitating and are no longer in proportion to the event or situation you’re worried about, it might be a good idea to speak with a professional. The aim is to help you learn how to control your anxiety so it doesn’t control you.
Most Common Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, but the following are a few of the most common anxiety disorders.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive worry, even when there is no specific threat to worry about. Another characteristic of GAD is experiencing worry that is not proportionate to the problem you are facing. For example, many people feel some level of anxiety when they’re going somewhere new that they’ve never been to before. When you don’t know exactly what to expect, you might be likely to worry a little bit. However, someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder will spend significantly more time agonising about the situation to where it doesn’t seem proportionate to the actual activity. This kind of scenario might cause someone with GAD so much anxiety that they decide not to participate because they find the level of worry too overwhelming.
Some common symptoms that tend to accompany GAD are an increased heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, and racing thoughts. Generalised Anxiety Disorder makes it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks that might seem very simple to other people. It’s common for GAD to cause problems in a person’s life, including creating problematic issues in a relationship or trouble at work due to excessive worry.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has laid out specific criteria that would lead to a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
- Excessive worry and anxiety about different events and activities, occurring on more days than not for at least six months.
- The person finds it difficult to control this anxiety and worry.
- The anxiety and worry are associated with three or more of the following symptoms, with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not within the last six months.
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or your mind going blank.
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances – trouble falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep
- The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
- The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
- Another medical disorder does not better explain the disturbance
To be diagnosed with a panic disorder, you must experience panic attacks regularly. They must be recurrent and unexpected. A panic attack is defined or characterised by four or more of the listed symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Chest pain or discomfort
- A feeling of choking
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint.
- Feelings of unreality (derealisation) or being detached from oneself (depersonalisation)
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flushes
Additionally, at least one panic attack a month is often followed by the fear of having continued panic attacks regularly. This fear causes people to change their behaviour, which often includes avoiding situations they believe might induce an attack. For a panic disorder diagnosis, it also needs to be concluded that the panic attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or an unrelated general medical condition. Additionally, the attacks are not better accounted for by another mental disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Many people get nervous or stressed when they have to deal with unfamiliar social situations. Maybe you get a little sweaty, or you’re just worried about what to say. This is pretty typical, and those feelings of nervousness alone don’t constitute a diagnosable anxiety disorder. If you experience the following symptoms, though, you may want to see a therapist in regards to Social Anxiety Disorder:
- Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. For example, having a conversation with an unfamiliar person, being observed eating or drinking, and even speaking in public can trigger imagined fear about being harshly judged, leading to severe anxiety.
- The typical day-to-day social situations you are involved in almost always provoke unusually high anxiety or fear.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat by the social interaction and to the socio-cultural context.
- The person avoids social interactions or endures them with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance of a regular situation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for at least six months.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not attributable to the psychological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
- If another medical condition is present, the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is clearly unrelated or excessive.
PLEASE NOTE: We do not offer bulk billing.
Before you book your appointment to see a psychologist, it is important to consider the costs involved. This will help you to weigh your options and make the right decision for you and your health. Patients with a referral/mental health care plan from a GP will be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare. We accept direct deposit or credit card/debit cards.
To suit your individual needs and preferences, sessions with a psychologist can be spaced weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
For more information about costs, inquire at Pynk Health.
How is Anxiety Treated?
There are many things a person can do to try to deal with their anxiety. Seeing a clinician can be really beneficial. It can be helpful to speak with an experienced medical professional who can help you cope with your anxiety and find healthy, productive ways of dealing with it. When you see a therapist, they can help you develop a plan to deal with your worries appropriately.
There are other options besides counselling, but they work best in conjunction with counselling. For example, you can try journaling, meditating, and mindfulness techniques. It’s important to have someone you can talk to who truly understands what you’re going through. At Pynk Health, we have clinicians who can help you. If you’ve been clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or you’re just dealing with extra worry about a specific event, our experts can help. At Pynk Health, we really care.