While it’s normal to occasionally feel anxious or worried, many people experience anxiety on a long-term basis, which interferes with their enjoyment of life. About 1 in 4 New Zealanders will experience an anxiety disorder at a time in their life.
The good news is that anxiety is treatable, so it’s important to seek help early before your life becomes difficult or unmanageable. At Local Doctors, your doctor can assess and help you manage anxiety. We also have the Wellness Support Team that can get you on track to feeling better.
What is anxiety?
There are different types of anxiety disorder, but the most common type is called generalised anxiety disorder or GAD. It is an on-going high level of anxiety.
If you have GAD, it’s common to also have depression or other anxiety disorders like panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder. If you come from a family that experiences anxiety disorders you are more
likely to have anxiety.
What causes anxiety?
It’s helpful to understand the Fight or Flight response when you have anxiety.
When we believe we are in danger, our body undergoes some major, temporary changes designed to let us either run away from the threat, or be ready to fight it.
Fear triggers two parts of our nervous system to prepare us for this. When one part is activated, we experience physical changes, then, when the other part is activated, two chemicals called adrenalin and noradrenalin are released from the kidneys. These chemicals keep the physical changes present long enough
for you to flee or fight.
When the deed is done, the chemicals no longer flood your body and you return to normal. But, in someone with anxiety, maybe because their brains are wired differently, the chemicals keep being released so they constantly feel fearful. This is what causes the continual feeling of anxiety.
- worry or fear
- muscle tension
- pounding heart
- dry mouth
- difficulty concentrating
- poor sleep
- missed periods
The aim is to get help to manage those parts of the brain that constantly release adrenalin and noradrenalin.
Your doctor may diagnose anxiety after talking to you about your symptoms. You’re likely to have GAD if you’ve felt anxious most days for over six months. You can take a test to assess the level of anxiety you are feeling.
If you score about 6 to 10, you could have a moderate level of anxiety and we recommend you to see one of our doctors to confirm the diagnosis and offer support.
How is anxiety treated?
Usual treatment is a combination of understanding anxiety, therapy/counselling, lifestyle changes and anti-anxiety medication. You might also try using an anxiety app.
Anxiety can be effectively treated; the earlier you seek help, the better for your wellbeing.
- If so, you are entitled to know:
- the names of the medicines
- what symptoms they are supposed to treat
- how long it will be before they take effect
- how long you will have to take them for and what their side effects (short and long-term) are.
It’s important to see your doctor before stopping any medication. If you stop suddenly you may feel even worse.
There’s a range of counselling treatment for anxiety. Your doctor or nurse or Psychologist or a health coach will talk to you about them.
Physical exercise is also great for wellbeing; being active on most of days of the week will help your mental health. It’s also a good idea to get an annual health check with your doctor.
Eat right, quit smoking
Eat healthy – too much sugar, caffeine and fast food can make you feel anxious. Smoking and alcohol can do the same. Find out about Quitline.
Try to get more sleep, and explore ways to feel more relaxed, like doing yoga or learn mindfulness. Try a sleep app.
Learn about anxiety
Learning about anxiety can be extremely helpful for you and your whānau. Our Wellness Support Team can provide information about anxiety and depression, suggest different ways to handle them, and discuss any complications that could occur.