The physical power of anxiety

Anxiety and mental health need to be part of our every day health conversation if we are to turn the tide, Grace Purvis argues.

Panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, a racing heart beat, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness and feeling tense and on edge are just some of the many symptoms that anxiety can bring to any individual.

Katie*, an 18-year-old university student from Queensland, Australia thought she was going insane when she started to experience irrational thoughts, a racing mind and an accelerated heart beat while at work.

“I remember one day I was at work and my chest felt tight. felt like I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know what was happening,” Katie said as she explains her first experience of a panic attack.

“It felt like I was going to die, like everything stopped and I felt so out of it.”

“I had never really heard about the physical effects of anxiety before, only just feelings of stress or being on edge.”

She wasn’t sure what was going on. She was scared and but despite what she thought, she was far from alone.

Mental Health Week, RUOK day and Walk for Awareness are all great events for conversation starters about mental health, but it needs to be more than that.

We can’t just dedicate one day of a year to discuss and talk about mental health. Mental health has to be in our conversations every single day.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics anxiety is the most common mental illness in Australia, affecting one in four people every year. While well known, anxiety has detrimental affects both mentally and physically and they have gone under the radar for far too long.

Anxiety is so much more then a fear of leaving the house, or a voice telling you you’re not good enough.

Anxiety has the power take away everything that one used to enjoy and make it seem like a thing of the past and it needs to have more attention, awareness and be taken seriously.

“I went from being such an outgoing person to someone who would second guess everything I did,” Katie said.

“My anxiety started to get really physical, I always felt like I was swaying, like the ground was uneven and I always had constant headaches and I had no idea what was going on, no one ever tells you how much it effects your body everyday.”

Anxiety drains your energy. Your body is constantly on flight or flight mode, constantly over thinking, constantly going.

With suicide being the biggest cause of death for young Australians even more so then car accidents, its alarming and a conversation that needs to be had everyday.

Mental health is real issue and it’s winning.

Katie said that since graduating high school she has lost two friends to suicide, but still wasn’t sure what was happening to her when she started dealing with anxiety.

“I wish they told you more about mental health issues in high school, I had no idea what was happening to me, only through my own research and eventually asking for help I knew what was going on,” Katie said.

Although mental health awareness has grown over the past years it’s still an issue that most people are uncomfortable talking about, which is a big problem.

Having a mental illness is just as worthy, life threatening and serious as any physical illness and that’s what people need to recognise.

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Mental health has to be in your conversations with your loved ones and friends, with the person you sit next to on the bus, your lecturer at university and the taxi driver who dropped you home.

Everyone will be touched by mental health at some point in some way at one point of their lives, so don’t stop the conversation.

You never know if that one conversation, one word, one hug, one “I’m always here” could save one persons live.

So don’t be afraid to start the conversation.

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