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Anxiety and Depression

Did you know that anxiety is the single most common reason that someone will visit a GP in Australia?

Across all age groups from children to adults, the healthy human fight/flight/freeze response can go into overdrive for many reasons, and leave us humans to feel like the heart is racing, breathing is difficult, the chest is tight, an overwhelming sense of doom or dread and a restless feeling that makes it difficult to sleep/ concentrate/ sit peacefully and to enjoy life.  Sometimes this feeling only comes on a specific circumstance such as in a public place or in a particular situation, for others the feeling can be constant.  When extreme anxiety can cause panic attacks.  Constant underlying anxiety can be tricky sometimes to diagnose- for example you may not feel anxious, but rather have tingling fingers because you are subconsciously holding your breath, or severe tiredness because you are not sleeping properly, or stomach pains/diarrhoea/ bloating because when the body is using the stress nervous system is is ignoring the nervous system area which looks after digestion.

Sometimes anxiety causes people to avoid doing things they enjoy, like meeting with friends, playing sport, or having fun with their partner or family.  This can sometimes lead to a depression, which is when the mood stays very low for more than a couple of weeks, and life has no joy.

Depression is feeling of low mood that lasts for a few weeks or more, and a lack of being able to enjoy the usual enjoyments of life.

In its most severe form there may even be feelings of wanting to harm yourself, and if this is happening you need to seek urgent help- please call 000 or go to the emergency department

Please also see our list of resources including crisis numbers- Helpful-contact-numbers-and-links

Both anxiety and depression can have serious consequences if untreated, but fortunately effective treatments are available, such as psychology/ counselling, medication, exercise and mindfulness practices.

What to do if you (or your child) is having symptoms that may be anxiety or depression-

  1. Book an appointment with one of our doctors if you would like a medical opinion and to discuss further options.
  2. Consider completing these questionnaire for adults and bring this to your appointment.5.K10withinstructions Dass42 ; and for children- scas
  3. Take some time when waiting for your appointment to write down a summary of your symptoms and difficulties This will greatly help your GP to consider a diagnosis and suggest the best management.  For example- you might write down some notes about your family history (does anyone have any mood or emotional difficulties whether diagnosed or no?), How were your younger years? (happy, anxious, always getting into trouble, loved or hated school, relationships and friendships?), How were your teenage years? (happy and sociably, anxious or depressed mood, struggled to reach potential at school or work, getting into trouble with peers or teachers, any drug use or legal problems?); How have close relationships been? (settled and happy close relationships, rocky and volatile relationships even angry outbursts or violence?); Have you had any issues with drugs or alcohol? What currently affects you from having a happy and fulfilled life? (emotional ups and downs, frustrations with never being able to keep on top of the tasks of life, rocky relationships with friends or family, financial issues due to impulsive spending, trouble with drugs or alcohol?)  Are there specific things which make you feel anxious or depressed such as particular situations or events. Remember, you have had many or none of these difficulties, but taking time to think about and write this down helps your GP to help you.
  4. Consider starting an exercise plan for yourself or your child- the evidence for exercise as a treatment for anxiety and depression is very impressive, and exercise can be as useful and effective as medication, provided the exercise is for around 45mins of moderate to high intensity, most or all days of the week.  Try this Black Dog plan to start your own exercise program! – Exercise-Plan-development
  5. While waiting for your appointment, you might want to look at the below videos/ blogs/ podcasts and helpful websites to learn more about this condition and to start with some self help exercises. Our doctors look forward to seeing you soon.

Additional resources-

Mindfulness in Everyday life- a useful summary from Black Dog Institute on bringing mindfulness to daily life. Mindfulness-in-Everyday-Life

Calm- very helpful resource for self help with evidence of benefit in anxiety and mood https://www.calm.com/

Black Dog Institute Expert Insights– Podcast series with a range of expert health professionals discussing mental health and treatments. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/education-services/podcasts/expert-insights/

E Couch– a university and Beyond Blue combined project offering self help CBT program https://ecouch.anu.edu.au/new_users/welcome03

Smiling Mind- a great app for adults and kids teaching how to use mindfulness in everyday life  https://www.smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app

Stop, Breathe and Think- an app to help with taking a moment to think and act calmly, using mindfulness. A free resource for adults and children https://au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps/stop-breathe-and-think