What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. It is a serious condition, characterised by persistent excessive worry, that makes it hard for a person to cope with, and take pleasure from, daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person with anxiety these feelings cannot be easily controlled.
Anxiety is often associated with depression and can affect people of all ages, from children at school and those at work, to grandparents at home. Research shows that on average 1 in 4 people will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives, with over 2 million Australians experiencing anxiety in any one year.
At this stage we do not know precisely what causes anxiety, however we do know that imaging studies have shown that people with anxiety have abnormal brain activity in specific regions of the brain. Research has shown that factors including a family history of anxiety, stressful events (such as changing schools, moving house, separation of parents, bullying, work stress, relationship difficulties and accident or illness), physical health problems (such as dizziness and vertigo, hormone problems, diabetes, heart disease and asthma), drug or alcohol abuse, and personality factors (such as low self-esteem, perfectionists, being easily flustered) can all serve to increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
What causes Anxiety?
Research indicates that anxiety is not caused from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Research has shown that factors including a family history of anxiety, stressful events (such as changing schools, moving house, separation of parents, bullying, work stress, relationship difficulties and accident or illness), physical health problems (such as dizziness and vertigo, hormone problems, diabetes, heart disease and asthma), drug or alcohol abuse, and personality factors (such as low self-esteem, perfectionists, being easily flustered) can all serve to increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder
How do we help anxiety?
Everyone is different and there is no single treatment for anxiety that helps everyone. At The Perth Brain Centre we primarily focus on providing drug-free treatments for anxiety using:
The two most common types of anxiety disorder:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder feel anxious and worried most of the time, often worrying about many different things. People suffering with GAD can worry and stress about any aspects of daily life, including work, home, health and financial issues, even when there is no real cause for concern. GAD appears to affect more women than men and can occur at any time of life, including children and older people. Many people with GAD cannot identify the precise cause for their concerns but are usually aware that they have had a tendency to worry about things for a long time. People with GAD will often also report that they have difficulty thinking or concentrating, feel restless and “on edge” and will often have difficulties sleeping (such as insomnia and nightmares), as well as feeling tired and irritable. It is not unusual for people with GAD to experience dizziness, stomach aches, nausea, and headaches as well as pain and stiffness affecting the neck, jaw, shoulders and back.
People suffering from Panic Disorders can experience panic attacks that are intense, overwhelming and uncontrollable with feelings of intense anxiety. Symptoms may include dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty breathing or choking, increased heart rate, feeling hot or cold, sweaty and shaky, nausea, stomach pain, heavy arms and legs, and numbness or tingling. People suffering a panic attack may also experience feelings of derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalisation (feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings) as well as feeling that they are going crazy or going to die. Panic attacks can strike someone at anytime, sometimes as a result of a forthcoming event (such as preparing to go to school or work), but often unpredictably and without warning.
Treatment can help people manage, reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of anxiety. Diagnosis is generally made by a GP. Some treatments can be provided by the doctor, or they may give a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other suitably-trained healthcare professional. At The Perth Brain Centre we focus primarily on providing Neurofeedback Therapy.
Neurofeedback is suitable for people of almost all ages. Patients sit comfortably and relax during training whilst sensors precisely detect and measure brainwave activity. This information is analysed in real-time and presented as audio and visual feedback which is used to “strengthen” and retrain the brain. Changing the brain takes time but people often notice improvements within a few sessions.
In addition to office-based Neurofeedback Therapy, many patients find that HeartMath HRV Biofeedback (a proven stress-management programme that can be practised at home) is also very helpful in reducing anxiety. Aside from these “high-tech solutions” we also provide advice about diet and exercise, breathing techniques, relaxation and sleep. In some cases it can also be helpful to consult with our psychologist and we are of course very happy to work alongside other healthcare professionals in the best interest of all our patients.