Warning sign you can’t ignore
IT'S a common phrase we all hear daily: "I'm so anxious."
Most of us can relate to feeling a knot in our stomach before we give a presentation at work or while watching our favourite team play in the grand final, but at what point does a feeling of dread becomes a sign you should get help?
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in Australia today and is estimated to affect two million of us.
According to general practitioner and Beyond Blue's lead clinical adviser Grant Blashki, the difference between normal worry and clinical anxiety is when it becomes "excessive fear and worry beyond everyday concerns".
Clinical anxiety can present in three different ways; panic attacks, social anxiety or OCD behaviours, he said.
"I work as a GP and to my mind a good question is how is this affecting your daily life?" Dr Blashki told news.com.au.
"Is it affecting your work, is it affecting your relationships, is it affecting your social life? These are really good red flags that maybe this is becoming more of a clinical anxiety than everyday worry."
News.com.au is this month raising awareness of good mental health as part of its campaign Let's Make Some Noise. We are highlighting the issue of anxiety and its cost to employers, the community, families and sufferers in support of Beyond Blue.
Unfortunately anxiety can sometimes be downplayed in society because the word is used as a blanket term to describe a spectrum of worry rather than a mental illness.
"One of the difficulties we've got is that the language we use in English uses the word anxious and anxiety to refer to everyday anxiousness, such as (I'm) worried about my football team winning or anxious about a meeting at work," Dr Blashki said.
"But actual clinical anxiety, for people who've experienced it, is much more serious and really can be quite debilitating, quite scary."
This meant in the past that people who haven't experienced clinical anxiety would "dismiss it" it as a choice rather than a mental illness.
"There's a risk that it underplays, underestimates, how serious the issue is for someone," Dr Blashki said.
It was also important to differentiate between clinical anxiety and everyday anxiety because not all feelings of worry were necessarily a bad thing.
Normal levels of worry could actually be "very motivating" and "help drive success", Dr Blashki explained.
"We know that you do actually need a little bit of a worry and a little bit of everyday anxiety to actually motivate you … It can often be like a signal that there's something you need to change in your life," he said.
"You might have a relationship where you think, 'Geez something is not right here.'
"Of course that's just being human and very important, so we don't want everyone to be walking around with no worry or no anxiety, but it's just the excessive nature that causes problems."
For those unsure of which category their anxiety falls into Beyond Blue has an anxiety checklist which gives immediate feedback and makes suggestions about any next steps you should take.
Dr Blashki also recommends a Beyond Blue guide to which treatments - from yoga to medication - work for anxiety based on scientific research.
But most of all he wants those living with anxiety to know that it's not a life sentence and people can recover through evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy.
"As a GP I really enjoy managing this condition because people do get better, they really do," he said.