Commonly anxiety is caused through environmental factors such as personal relationships, school, job, or financial predicament can contribute greatly to anxiety disorders. Anxiety plagues the mind by a constant state of worry, dread, and fear. This eventually would lead to domination over one’s thought processes to the extent that it starts to interfere with daily functioning such as work, school, social activities, and relationships. These frequent overwhelming feelings can lead one to drug use, alcohol use, eating disorders, or even self-mutilation as a means of release from these feelings of distress, in turn significantly putting the individual’s health at great risk in several ways.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can be diagnosed in three Anxiety disorders are in part grouped together based on their shared symptoms. However, many people experience a range of symptoms across the spectrum of disorders. Anxiety symptoms that begin to interfere with normal activities in life and relationships could point to an anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Generally most common amongst anxiety disorders. GAD refers to the feeling of excessive worry about many different things. Usually, these issues relate to things like work, safety, or family, and are usually much more serious compared to other forms and more likely to interfere with your personal life. GAD signs include the difficulty of doing tasks on a daily basis. This may also result in the person taking drugs and may cause them to experience physical problems.
Social anxiety: meaning that one may have an intense fear of social situations such as public speaking. It is an intense, recurrent fear that others will be watching and judging. This fear can have an effect on your job, education, and other daily activities.
Specific phobias: Specific phobias are an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of objects or situations that pose little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance. Meaning they are anxious about specific situations such as having an injection.
Panic disorders: causing one to have intense and overwhelming uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with many physical symptoms. Panic attacks are intense overwhelming and are usually uncontrollable intense feelings of anxiety.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:
Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy. Typically symptoms of panic disorders.
Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking, feeling intense fear of situations that involve social situations. Usually symptoms of social anxiety.
Behavioral: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work, or social life, excessive fear (specific phobias).
Prevalence higher in women than men- At least one in seven women report experiencing an anxiety-related condition. According to research, anxiety disorders are far more common among women, who were twice as likely to be affected than men. This can be due to some mood changes and depressed feelings that occur with normal hormonal changes. Other biological factors, inherited traits, and personal life circumstances and experiences are associated with a higher risk of anxiety. Here’s what contributes to anxiety in women. Dramatic hormonal changes occur during pregnancy, and these can affect mood. Work overload. Often women work outside the home and still handle home responsibilities. Many women deal with the challenges of single parenthood, such as working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Also, women may be caring for their children while also caring for sick or older family members. Sexual or physical abuse. Women who were emotionally, physically, or sexually abused as children or adults are more likely to experience anxiety at some point in their lives than those who weren’t abused. Women are more likely than men to experience sexual abuse.
Affecting Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander (ATSI)- According to the Australian Indigenous Health info net page, one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have experienced high levels of psychological distress (anxiety). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide. These alarming trends show that mental illness within the ATSI population is significantly high and is increasing. This could be due to many also experience disadvantages in the form of unemployment, poverty, isolation, trauma, discrimination, trouble with the law, and alcohol and substance abuse.
Youth-Beyond blue: One in fourteen young Australians (6.9%) aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people. Affecting youth- An increase in the trend of mental illness disorders for adolescents can be due to numerous factors. One of the main factors could be stress. An individual could experience stress through school. According to the World Health Organization, research suggests factors that can contribute to stress during adolescence include a desire for greater autonomy, pressure to conform with peers, exploration of sexual identity, and increased access to and use of technology. Stress is caused by many factors within adolescence leading to more stress within individuals increasing the anxiety rate within young people.
Risk factors and protective behaviors
Risk factors: Risk factors are those behaviors that increase the chance of developing a mental illness. Modifiable determinants are those that can be changed or controlled so they have a different level of influence on our health. Non-modifiable determinants are determinants that cannot be changed or altered examples include Genetics, Environmental.
Mental health problems and illnesses may arise from a wide range of factors, and they have the potential to affect anyone. Anxiety tends to have a significant life event that negatively impacts an individual. Anxiety is linked with substance abuse such as alcohol consumption and illicit drug use. Factors of heredity (non-modifiable) can also lead to the development of a mental illness. A major risk factor related to mental health is stigma, as many people feel embarrassed or are less likely to seek care and help for a physical illness. Other risk factors that may lead to the diagnosis of anxiety are:
Trauma (non-modifiable) can increase an individual’s chance of developing a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A traumatic event is an incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. An individual who has experienced trauma may cause them to feel a sense of distress/worry. This can lead to more frequent behavioral and psychological symptoms of anxiety such as excessive fear/worry or even a racing heart rate. This is due to the fear of a past traumatic event recurring, leading to the individual experiencing symptoms of anxiety causing him/her to be more prone to the illness. Trauma can stimulate many types of anxiety such as Generalised anxiety disorder, specific disorder, or even social anxiety.
A build-up of stressful situations (modifiable) such as school and conflict that brings about a lot of stress may trigger this disorder. Feeling stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous. According to the department of health the highest rate of anxiety was within the 16-24 age group. This can be due to environmental factors such as school, work, university, etc.
Drugs or illicit substances (modifiable) can cause or worsen one’s mental illness. According to a study done by SANE illicit drugs cause a condition called drug-induced Psychosis. Abuse of illicit substances will increase the tendency of Psychosis leading to a high chance of a mental illness such as anxiety, being triggered for a lifetime long. Using illicit substances can also make the symptoms of mental illnesses worse and make treatment less effective. The exploitation of illicit substances can cause symptoms of anxiety increases the chance of the diagnosis of the mental illness.
People with other mental health (modifiable) conditions such as depression can also develop anxiety. This could be due to the fact of the individual has poor mental health. For example, if someone has depression symptoms of poor mental health can include isolation from society (friends, peers) resulting in him/her being more prone to other mental illnesses such as anxiety (social anxiety).
Protective behaviors aim to improve the mental health of Australian individuals and communities. Due to the high prevalence rate and severe impacts of anxiety, governments, communities, and schools have made efforts to recognize and support those with or at risk of poor mental health. For instance, school curriculums include mental health problems through mandatory PDHPE lessons to ensure the youth is educated about the risk factors of anxiety or any mental illness. Other common protective behaviors that can be taken are:
Consistent home/family routine to prevent any situations where the individual wouldn’t stress on new situations where they wouldn’t know how to react. Studies suggest that a strong relationship with an individual’s family decreases the chance of being diagnosed with mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Ensuring a stable and strong relationship with family and friends is an important protective factor, as they as a family can act as a vital support network to the individual.
High social support allows individuals to have support in stressful situations that may bring about anxiety. This can also prevent social anxiety as social support may give a sense of comfort to the person.
Consistent physical activity brings about constant happiness to outweigh the stress, as, through exercise, endorphins are released to bring about these moods. Frequent physical activity can reduce stress symptoms and also could help an individual recover from a mental illness.
High self-esteem helps one feel good about themselves in several situations, preventing stressful moods and thoughts. High self-esteem can lead to fewer symptoms of anxiety.
Good problem-solving skills, allowing the individual to know how to react in many situations, preventing them from falling into instances where they don’t know what to do, which can cause one to feel stressed, worsening the anxiety.
Sociocultural: Refers to the way society perceives and stigmatizes mental health as perhaps one of the most significant risk factors. Families, media, religion, culture, and peers can impact an individual’s chances of developing anxiety in several ways. An example of the family can be the personality of a mother might be one that is usually anxious about many things. This could be a tendency a child could take on as they grow up, leading to an increase in anxiety from many things, increasing the likelihood of becoming anxious. However family, could also positively impact and individually as it can be important for their wellness and outcomes, but it also improves the mental health of individual family members and the family as a unit. Peers can positively impact an individual by reducing the possibility of getting this mental illness. Having a supportive group of friends by people supporting an individual through stressful times and helping them through hardships, decreasing the chance of anxiety in this situation. Peers can also negatively impact an individual by introducing the individual to illicit substances through peer pressure. This exposes the person to a risk factor of illicit substances. Media can educate individuals about what a healthy lifestyle is. It can teach people the risk factors of mental illnesses, decreasing the chances of diagnosis of a mental illness. Social Media also can cause a mental illness as it can lead to low self-esteem, making someone feel not as or good enough. This can be analyzed through the 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way. Religion and culture influence many things in one’s life, and the likelihood of developing a mental illness is one of them. Religions have certain beliefs and boundaries that must be followed in the same way as culture, where traditions can influence decisions to do many things, and this can also affect them in many ways. Religion can positively impact an individual as it can give people something to believe in, gives them a sense of meaning, and usually offers a group of people a bond over similar beliefs. Both factors can have a significant positive effect on mental health. Research suggests that religiosity decreases suicide, alcohol, and drug use. This can decrease the chance of social anxiety as an individual can connect with others through similar beliefs. Religion also reduces the chances of participating in risk factors as in religions the consumption of illicit substances is prohibited. Distance from religion can negatively impact the individual. If one suffers from forms of religious and spiritual difficulties, this could have an impact on their relationship with their religion. It affects the person emotionally and morally, as the individual does not feel any relation to his or her values, impacting his or her social health, which, in effect, may increase the chances of developing mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Socioeconomic refers to society-related economic factors. The socioeconomic factors that determine health include employment, education, and income. Education plays a vital role in the likelihood of an individual falling into any mental health condition in many ways. If the individual was not taught the effects of stress and a lack of sleep, then that person will feel there is no problem in participating in such harmful activities, not knowing the effects, therefore increasing the chance of developing anxiety as both a lack of sleep and stress are risk factors of anxiety. Employment is another determinant that affects the chance of an individual developing many types of different mental illnesses. Employment affects an individual in many ways such as family relationships and other aspects of health. Income is another factor that can determine one’s chance of developing mental illness. Income varies for many people and is very important to have in modern-day society to be able to survive a healthy lifestyle in every aspect.
An individual’s geographical location significantly impacts one’s health. In many ways, geographical location can affect the chances of developing mental health issues and illnesses. This can be due to people living in rural and remote areas have less access to health care and support for mental health. People in rural/remote areas may also be susceptible to developing a mental illness such as anxiety, due to other factors such as isolation. Another way environmental sustainability may impact one’s health is through the lack of access to technology. Technology is a big part of modern-day society and is vital to have for many uses such as education, location help, etc. If a person does not have access to this then it can affect their health in negative ways. Technology can help an individual develop personal skills by educating themself, this can be done through reading online. Technology allows an individual to be aware of risk factors of mental illness decreasing the chance of the diagnosis of a mental illness.
Groups at risk
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (ATSI): are at risk due to aboriginal and Torres strait islanders usually coming from a low socioeconomic background. Indigenous Australians are nearly three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than non-Indigenous Australians, suggesting a high rate of poor mental health within the population. ATSI people are more likely to have behavioral risk factors present in their lifestyle than other Australians. For example the increasing rate of smoking among, risky alcohol consumption, illicit substance use. Due to the high rates of risk behaviors individuals within the ATSI population are more prone to mental illnesses than non-indigenous people. Another factor putting the ATSI population at risk is the majority living in rural areas. This disadvantages them as most people living in remote/rural come from low SES. Living in remote areas increases an individual’s behavior to interact with risk behaviors such as consumption of illicit substances.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged people (low SES) tend to be most at risk of mental illnesses. People from low SES appear to be less informed about factors affecting health. Smoking prevalence tends to fall as SES rises. Meaning that the lower the SES status the individual is the more chance of smoking. According to smokenet.gov, the use of tobacco use can trigger common anxiety symptoms. Some regular smokers believe smoking eases anxiety and they report this is a reason they continue to smoke. However, that’s because smoking relieves their nicotine withdrawal symptoms. This relief is only temporary and symptoms of anxiety are likely to return and the cycle will continue. When an individual is ‘hooked’ on the use of tobacco, constant anxiety symptoms will be affecting the individual as the urge to smoke. A low SES status could also have other factors putting them at risk of mental illnesses such as unstable employment, or those who live in substandard housing are more likely to suffer from anxiety, mood disorders, and increased substance abuse. A low SES can impact an individual’s diet as they might not be able to afford a healthy diet, resulting in an unhealthy diet. Poorer diets tend to be linked to poor mental health as they can worsen anxiety symptoms.
People who have experienced trauma (eg. Major accidents) are likely to experience a mental illness disorder such as anxiety due to the fear/worry of an individual’s past traumatic event recurring.
Males- in particular those aged 16-25 due to the high rates of smoking and use of illicit substances. Younger males tend to take more risks, increasing the chance of drug usage. Stressful situations are common within this age group as individuals may be coming from age leading them to make life decisions such as studying in university or being financially stable as an adult.
Prevalence is higher in women than men due to a range of factors such as hormonal changes, workload or even past traumatic events. At least one in seven women (15.7%) report experiencing an anxiety-related condition. A study done by the anxiety and depression association suggests that women are more sensitive to low levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone that organizes stress responses in mammals, making them twice as vulnerable as men to stress-related disorders.