ANXIETY SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Anxiety is a common mental health condition which affects 12-14% of all Australians. Many of course will not seek treatment until this becomes quite acute and disabling. We all know what it’s like to feel anxious, that feeling of dread or apprehension which usually accompanies tightness in the chest, and also leads to other physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling and rapid heartbeat.
These feelings are normal when people are faced with threats or problems which seem insurmountable. But, for most of us, these feelings usually fade away once the causative event passes, or we somehow solve the problem. But for some of us, anxiety becomes quite attached to us, and for no particular reason, continues to make our daily life quite complex and difficult. We then are said to be suffering from anxiety. Sounds familiar?
This disorder is not always easy to diagnose, as we feel this is part of life. The good news is that most anxiety disorders can be successfully treated, once diagnosed.
No single cause of anxiety disorder has been identified. There are a number of potential risk factors which may predispose us to suffer from anxiety:
- Personal characteristics: The introverted, perfectionists, people with low self esteem and poor coping skills may be quite prone to anxiety disorders.
- Family history: Anxiety spectrum disorders tend to run in families, suggesting there’s a genetic factor involved in thecause.
- Chemical imbalance: Some neurochemical changes in the brain may cause anxiety pathways to over-react. This is mainly a reason of concern for patients who already are vulnerable due to presence of other factors mentioned here. Serotonin and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) are two of the neurotransmitters which may be involved, although their exact role is poorly understood.
- Illness: Certain ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, Diabetes and hormonal problems have been linked to anxiety.
- Stress factors: A range of stressful life events, egrelationship breakdown, job related stress, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, or grief and loss due to death of a loved one – can trigger anxiety in some people.
- Substance use: Alcohol and drugs, such as Cannabis or amphetamines – can be the cause of anxiety. Even caffeine can worsen anxiety symptoms.