lifestyle

The condition 3 million people have, but don't understand.

Three million Australians suffer from anxiety, but many of them have no idea.

There’s a 1 in 4 chance that you will suffer from an anxiety disorder throughout your life. 26%, to be precise. And according to Beyond Blue, you might not know you have it. A new study says that thousands of people don’t seek treatment for anxiety because they fob off their symptoms as personality flaws, stress, or a normal amount of worry.

It can be very difficult to spot and capture a mental illness. But just like sadness isn’t depression, worrying isn’t an anxiety disorder. There’s an important difference.

Let me try and demonstrate.

Picture the last time you panicked. Not just a fleeting worry; I mean real, palpable panic.

Maybe you slumped onto cold bathroom tiles and sobbed. Maybe you pulled over at the side of the road, banged your head on the steering wheel, and filled the inside of your car with weird screams. Hell, maybe you locked yourself in the stationary cupboard at work and blasted Blink 182 music to muffle the sound of your yelling.

Whatever the setting, I bet you were alone. We tend to isolate ourselves when we’re in panic.

Now, try and remember the reason you panicked. Could have been anything: work stress, impending deadlines, tamtruming children, a fight with someone you love, bad traffic, major life decisions, total exhaustion.

Whatever the reason, there’s great relief in having one. Once you put panic in context, it’s not so lonely – there are bosses and co-workers and screaming children who can legitimise your feeling of anxiety. There’s a clear link between an event and a feeling, and that’s comforting.

Read more: The easiest way to explain why you can’t just ‘stop’ having anxiety

But what if you got that panicked feeling for no reason? Heart palpations, shortness of breath, chest pains, sweaty palms, loss of emotional control, fear, all of it – without an obvious trigger? What if the pain of a situation passed, but the feeling of total panic stayed with you for months and months without letting up?

That’s an uncomfortable thought.

It’s also, potentially, a mental illness. One that can be treated.

Beyond Blue have relaunched their Get To Know Anxiety campaign. You might remember this powerful short film starring Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn… Watch it for the first time, or watch it again. Just watch it:

Anxiety disorder can taunt people with feelings of indiscriminate panic. It can leave you exhausted, tense, nervous, sore, overwhelmed, and distressed without having to justify itself. Like many other mood disorders, anxiety is an insidious fucker that can sneak up on you.

Having anxiety can make it hard to work, hard to sleep, hard to speak, hard to move, hard to function. It can make you a hot-and-cold, sweaty, trembling mess. It can take your feeling of sanity and control.

But most importantly, you can treat it. You can defeat it.

If you need immediate help, you can contact:

Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

SANE Australia has fact sheets on mental illness as well as advice on getting treatment. Visit www.sane.org or call 1800 18 SANE (7263). You can also visit beyondblue: the national depression initiative (1300 22 4636) or the Black Dog Institute, or talk to your local GP or health professional.

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