Anxiety: A bright side

By Donna Duggan

Anxiety: A bright side

According to the mental health organisation beyondblue, three million Australians are living with depression or anxiety. With a population of just over 23 million people, that means a substantial chunk of society is affected by depression and anxiety – either directly or indirectly.

Beyondblue explains that anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, these feelings usually pass once the stressful situation has passed. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t subside or when these feelings exist without any particular reason or cause.

The signs and symptoms of anxiety vary enormously, but common ones include hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour. The cause of anxiety can also vary greatly; a stressful event may trigger symptoms of anxiety; continuing physical illness such as hormonal problems may be the cause; substance abuse can cause people to develop anxiety; or the cause may be genetic.

The best treatment for anxiety depends on the symptoms experienced. Mild symptoms may be relieved with lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise. Interestingly, researchers at Tel Aviv University found that some people who experience mild anxiety also have problems with balance and that a simple course of physical treatment for balance problems can also resolve anxiety issues. When symptoms are moderate or severe, psychological and / or medical treatment may be required.  Talk with your medical practitioner if you are concerned and they will help you decide on treatment.

Bright Side

New research published in the journal Emotion, also shows that the way you regulate your emotions, in bad times and in good, can influence how much you suffer from anxiety.

Researchers from the University of Illinois show that people who engage in an emotional regulation strategy called reappraisal tend to have less anxiety than those who avoid expressing their feelings. Reappraisal involves looking at a problem in a new way. “When something happens, you think about it in a more positive light, a glass half full instead of half empty,” said lead researcher Nicole Llewellyn. “You sort of reframe and reappraise what’s happened and think what are the positives about this? What are the ways I can look at this and think of it as a stimulating challenge rather than a problem?” Study participants who regularly used this approach reported less severe anxiety than those who tended to suppress their emotions.


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