Denise Hawkins  

Wings 4 Women
 A Place of Hope and Healing


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Posted on 19 March, 2017 at 21:55 Comments comments (0)


I was asked a question last night from a lovely lady about I thought it would be appropriate to start my blog topics on this subject.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia - on average 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage in their life... and in a 12 month period over two million Australians will experience anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Stress, fear and anxious feelings are all a common re-action or response to certain situations we may face in life. We may feel anxious about going for a job interview... or fearful walking down a dark ally way at night or stressed about our financial situation. All of these are a common normal response and when the situation has passed so too will the stress, anxiousness and fear.

The difference with anxiety is that these anxious feelings can be difficult to control or may not go away at all... and an anxiety attack can happen without any particular trigger, conscious reason or cause - and this can make it hard to cope with everyday life.

What can cause anxiety?

* Ongoing stressful situations... like any type of abuse, the death of a loved one or a pet, changes to living arrangements, changes in the workplace or a job, traumatic events.

* past stressful situations and trauma.

* Physical health problems... like chronic conditions

* Depression...A family history of mental health issues can possibly lead you towards having a genetic pre disposition towards anxiety

*Personality traits/ types... being a perfectionist and or wanting to control everything can lead to anxiety.

The six most common types of anxiety are.

* Generalised anxiety disorder... feels anxious and worrying a lot.....a lot of the time.

* Social anxiety intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humilated in public, even eating in public can be an issue.

* Specific phobias... such as travelling in planes, needles, dentists etc

* OCD obsessive compulisive disorder... eg: fear of germs which leads to compulsive hand washing.

* Panic attacks ... you can experience a shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pains to the point that you feel like you are having a heart attack.

* PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder... I was diagnosed with PTSD myself in 2014 after experienceing years of abuse so this touches home for me... PTSD can occur after a person has experienced a traumatic or a series of traumatic events. Eg: War - as in our returned serviemen and women, any kind of abuse, accidents and disasters - natural or otherwise.

The symptons can include - being set off by certain situations/ sounds, smells, places and the environment...if you were bought up in a household of yelling and screaming of abuse  - any raised voices now can possibiy set you off in a PTSD attack because you have been triggered. All of this can make it difficult to relax as the mind and body is in constant fight or flight mode... Nightmares and flashbacks can also be a constant thing with people who suffer PTSD... For me there is a huge need to feel safe so I avoid certain situations, I avoid going to certain places and I avoid doing certain things all which have an impact on my day to day life... my life choices revolve around these things.

How Does The Brain Play a Role in Anxiety?

It is said that the brain can become hard-wired to anxiety and is thought that anxiety may result from a combination of nature (your genetics) and nurture (your environment). For example: as I stated above if you grew up in an environment with constant yelling or abuse. It can make you prone to look out for potential threats now, even when they no longer exsist. In a sense, your brain becomes "hard wired" for anxiety.

It is your brains job to keep you safe and if the brain senses such a potentially negative event or emotion it can trigger the fight or flight response...

The science of anxiety

The part of the brain that is triggered is the Amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the limbic system within the brain, which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory. The amygdala helps to store memories of events and emotions so that an individual may be able to recognize similar events in the future...hence the possibility to become "hard wired" . When the amygdala feels a threat it sends messages along the limbic system to the hypothalamus and tells the hypothalamus to trigger the "fight or Flight response which in turn then releases epinephrine or adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormones) into the bodies system to be able to re act to the threat or possible threat...this is when an anxiety attack becomes physically felt...

What Can You Do To Help Yourself If You Have Anxiety?

* First seek medical help...

* Seeing a therapist can also be really helpful.

* Watch your diet - there is increasing scientific evidence that your gut  flora plays a specific role in proper brain function and that includes psychological well-being, mood control and anxiety. It may sound strange that bacteria in your gut could impact emotions such as anxiety, but that is exactly what the sceintific research is finding out....get yourself onto a good probiotic... avoid sugar as much as possible and processed starchy foods.

* Exercise regularly. 

* Practise mindfulness and meditation... all of this gets you to focus on your breathing as well which is highly important when you are in the middle of an attack.

* Journalling - Write things down if your mind is in overwhelm helps the mind to clear things out once they are written down on paper.

I hope that you have found this article useful...if you are experienceing depression or anxiety and need extra support please call...

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Veterans and Veterans' Families Counselling Service – 1800 011 046