A WIMMERA psychologist says anxiety is still stigmatised by people who experience symptoms.
Wimmera Psychology clinical psychologist and social worker Kate Alessia said one in three people would experience anxiety at some point in their lives.
"There has always been a massive stigma around anxiety, as much as any mental health issue. People still believe it's character flaw," she said.
"The stigma has improved a lot in the last 20 or 30 years, but some people do still have that sense of shame and feel like it shouldn't be happening to them."
Her comments come after new Beyond Blue data revealed that one in three people who experienced anxiety said they didn't seek help because they thought their symptoms weren't serious enough.
Beyond Blue surveyed 1449 people through its online anxiety screening checklist. It found that two in five respondents had experienced mild to severe anxiety symptoms during the previous two weeks.
Only 46 per cent of respondents who had experienced anxiety symptoms said they sought professional support.
Three quarters of respondents said their anxiety conditions had at times stopped them from living life the way they wanted to.
Respondents said they didn't seek support for their symptoms because they thought what they were experiencing wasn't serious enough (31 per cent); thought they could solve the problem on their own (29 per cent); or didn't think they had a problem (20 per cent).
Furthermore, 20 per cent of respondents said they didn't seek help because they disliked discussing feelings, emotions and thoughts with other people.
Dr Alessia said a lack of mental health services in the Wimmera meant people living with anxiety often couldn't receive immediate support after experiencing symptoms.
"The biggest issue is lack of services in the Wimmera. Often when people do try to seek help, there's either a waiting period or the professional they contact refers them to someone else," she said.
"When someone is already experiencing anxiety, having to wait for help is a big problem."
She said physical exercise was a great way to help control feelings of anxiety, especially while people waited for support.
"While seeing someone face-to-face is of course ideal, exercise, eating right, socialising and getting enough sleep are things people can do to help with symptoms," she said.
Symptoms of anxiety include being irritable, avoiding social activities, lack of sleep, appetite changes and getting snappy at little things.
Dr Alessia said anxiety affected a person's whole body.
"Anxiety triggers the arousal system when it's not needed, which is why a lot of people with anxiety might feel like they are short of breath," she said.
"They might also experience other physical symptoms such as stomach aches, migraines, dizziness or digestive issues."
She encouraged people to seek professional support when anxiety symptoms impacted their day-to-day lives.
Common signs of anxiety include:
- Excessive worrying about things that could go wrong
- A racing mind that won't calm down
- Feeling tense or on edge
- A racing heart
- Sleeping problems
- Digestive problems
- Trouble breathing
Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman said anxiety was the most common mental health issue in Australia and affected about two million people.
Ms Harman said it took, on average, about eight years for people with anxiety issues to seek support.
"Anxiety can take many forms and it's important to understand that with the right support, recovery is possible and these issues can be managed," she said.
"Most people who responded to our survey recognise that, yet many remain reluctant to seek support. We wanted to understand why.
"People told us they thought their issues weren't serious enough to warrant treatment, and some did not think that what they were experiencing may, in fact, be an anxiety condition.
"We all experience feelings of anxiety from time to time - it's a normal reaction to the stress we encounter every day - but if your anxious feelings occur frequently, are intense or long lasting, or if they're interfering with your life, it may be a sign of an anxiety condition and you may benefit from more support."
Ms Harman said support for anxiety came in many forms and even simple interventions could help.
"Some people might benefit from visiting their GP or psychologist but for others, non-clinical options can be useful," she said.
"Beyond Blue offers online forums where people can share their experience and learn from others who are managing similar issues.
"Our personal best website provides tips and strategies for looking after your mental health. And our NewAccess program, a mental health coaching service, gives people free advice about ways to handle low to moderate anxiety and depression.
"No matter how serious your anxiety issue, support is available and the right advice can support you to manage it."
- If you, or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Help on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
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