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Do I Have Agoraphobia?

Do you struggle to leave the house without a friend? Are you frightened of what might happen if you get stuck on a busy train or in an elevator on your own? Do you feel a sense of panic at the thought of being left alone or in a large crowd of people? Do you do everything in your power to avoid these situations?  If so, it is possible you may be suffering from Agoraphobia.

 

What is Agoraphobia?

At its simplest, Agoraphobia is a fear of experiencing a panic attack. A known complication of Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia can be described as the anxiety associated with being in a particular situation or place from which escape may be difficult or help may be hard to access if a panic attack does occur. Commonly known as a fear of open spaces, Agoraphobia is actually much wider reaching, and can lead to avoidance of any feared situation, including being alone at home or away from home, being in crowded areas, including shopping centres and even buses, trains and plains, or even being in an elevator or an a bridge.

 

agoraphobiaHow can I tell if I have Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is characterised by anxiety or fear about being in places or situations where a panic attack might occur. As with panic attacks and panic disorder, no two people will experience Agoraphobia in the same way. In order to avoid the anxiety, people suffering from Agoraphobia may completely avoid the situation, only enter the situation or place with a companion, or reluctantly endure the situation under duress and with extreme anxiety.

 

How common is Agoraphobia?

Approximately 2% of the population will experience Agoraphobia in any given year. Agoraphobia tends to be more common in females, and will usually start in their mid to late twenties.

If left untreated, agoraphobia can become a chronic and disabling disorder that can significantly interfere with an individual’s work and social functioning. Like other anxiety disorders, however, agoraphobia responds very well to treatment and successful recovery is seen with a variety of treatment programmes.

 

What are the Treatment Options?

Because Agoraphobia is based on a fear of panic attacks, similar treatments to those of panic disorder and panic attacks are used.

As always, it is important to consult a Doctor to rule out a medical condition if you suffer anxiety or panic symptoms. Some drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, so it’s best that you let them know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, agoraphobiaherbal remedies or recreational drugs that you might be taking. If a medical cause is ruled out, the next step is to see a psychologist who has experience treating anxiety and panic disorders, and more specifically, Agoraphobia.

The specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of the panic attacks, and whether they are happening in tandem with any other depressive or anxiety disorders. Treatment options for Agoraphobia tend to include exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, assertiveness training, group therapy and medication. As with anxiety, panic disorders and panic attacks, Agoraphobia has been found to respond very well to treatment, but the best results are found when people are motivated and willing to make a change to their lifestyle.

Some changes that have been found to reduce the intensity of attacks include:

  • Utilising deep relaxation techniques, such as meditation or muscle relaxation
  • Regular exercise
  • Cutting back on stimulants, such as coffee and alcohol
  • Learning to acknowledge and express your feelings, rather than ignoring them
  • Using positive self-talk to create a calmer and more accepting attitude

 

How can we help with Agoraphobia?

At the core of Agoraphobia is the fear of panic attacks, which themselves are a biological fear response. The key to treatment is to develop strategies that help remove this fear so that the attacks no longer have the power to frighten you.

When you come in, your Psychologist will firstly make sure you feel comfortable and supported. They will then gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking, and what is happening in your life. You will most likely be asked to do some simple tests, and these will help to assess the severity of your Agoraphobia and associated panic attacks, and whether you are suffering any other symptoms of anxiety or depression.

You will also be asked questions to uncover what might be the causes and stressors in your life, and your Psychologist will work with you to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.

After your initial session, you will have some insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future, and some initial strategies to help get you started.

 

If you're concerned about the possibility you may be suffering from Agoraphobia, Anxiety or Depression and would like to see one of our experienced psychologists, contact us today.

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What is a Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

You’re worried.....

Constantly and without relief, your mind just can’t stop contemplating the ‘what if’s?’

What if the kids get sick? What if your partner has an accident? Do we have enough money to pay the bills? Am I doing enough at work? Do I fit in with my friends? What am I doing with my life? It never ends, and it’s exhausting.

In our busy world, it is totally normal to experience a certain amount of anxiety and stress, and in some instances, it can actually be a positive thing! But when it persists, and that worry and stress become a constant weight on your shoulders, it’s possible that your anxiety may have moved into disordered territory.

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is marked by constant worry and stress about life’s circumstances that persists for a majority of days over a 6 month period, but without any other anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias or obsessions.

People struggling with generalised anxiety disorder tend to focus on two or more specific worries, which commonly include money, relationships, health and work or school/work performance, and have difficulty exercising control over these worries.

The intensity and frequency of the stress and worry are almost always totally out of proportion to the actual likelihood that the feared events will even happen, and can become limiting and interfere with basic functioning when left unchecked.anxiety

How can I tell if I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

There are a variety of symptoms associated with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and no two people will experience it in exactly the same way. For generalised anxiety disorder to be occurring, symptoms of worry, physical tension and high arousal must be present for most days over a period of 6 months.

These might include:

- Nervousness or restlessness
- Trembling
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Sweating
- Poor concentration
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent urination
- Muscle tension
- Easily fatigued
- Irritable or depressed mood
- Light headed or dizziness
- Constant state of “high alert”
- Shortness of breath

The constant state of stress that occurs with anxiety can also result in other physical illness, such as headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and even osteoporosis.

How common is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

It is estimated that 14% of all Australians experience Anxiety in any given year, but only 6% of the population will experience Generalised Anxiety Disorder across their lifetime. This tends to be more common in women and can develop at any age.

Children and adolescents tend to worry about school or sports performance, and adults commonly worry about work, money and health.

Despite their prevalence, anxiety disorders respond very well and often quite quickly to treatment, so it’s not worth continuing to suffer (and worry!) in silence.

What are the Treatment Options?

If you suffer anxiety symptoms, it is important that you see a Doctor to rule out a medical condition. Some drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, so it’s best that you let them know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies or recreational drugs that you might be taking. If a medical cause is ruled out, the next step is to see a psychologist who has experience treating anxiety disorders.

anxiety disorderThe specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of your anxiety symptoms, and whether they are happening in tandem with any other depressive or anxiety disorders.

Generalised anxiety disorder often occurs in conjunction with depression, so it’s important that you share this in order to find the right treatment for you.

In general though, anxiety disorders are usually treated with behavioural therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

As with depression, anxiety disorders have been found to respond very well to treatment, but the best results are found when people are motivated and willing to make a change to their lifestyle.

Some changes that have been found to reduce the intensity of anxiety include:

- Utilising deep relaxation techniques, such as meditation or muscle relaxation
- Regular Exercise
- Cutting back on stimulants, such as coffee and alcohol, and sugar
- Increasing downtime
- Learning to acknowledge and express your feelings, rather than ignoring them
- Using positive self-talk to create a calmer and more accepting attitude

How can we help with Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

At the core of anxiety is worry, and the key to treatment is to make sure you have the tools you need to appropriately deal with that worry before it becomes more than it needs to be.

When you come in, your Psychologist will gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking, and what is happening in your life. You will most likely be asked to do some simple tests, and these will help to assess the severity of your anxiety, and whether you are suffering any other symptoms of anxiety or depression.

You will also be asked questions to uncover what might be the causes and stressors in your life, and your Psychologist will work with you to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.

After your initial session, you will have some insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future, and some initial strategies to help get you started.

Our Hart Psychologists specialise in all types of Anxiety and know how to help. We have specialist Psychologists in all capital and most regional cities. Phone our friendly receptionists for more information and to help you find the right Psychologist for you. Phone 1300830552.

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Do I Have An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time, but mostly we can chose to not pay attention to them and move on.

However, for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) unwanted negative thoughts can be constant and start to take control of their lives.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is  type of anxiety disorder that affects two to three percent of the population. While that seems like a relatively small percentage, in reality, more than 500,000 Australians suffer from OCD.

People with OCD experience recurrent and persistent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted (these are categorised as obsessions). They also perform repetitive and ritualistic actions that are excessive, time-consuming and distressing (these are categorised as compulsions).

Many people with OCD experience intense fear of something horrible happening to themselves or others. Due to this, they frequently seek reassurance from others and have constant doubts about their behaviour and feelings .

Prior to identification and treatment of the disorder, families can become deeply involved in the sufferer's rituals. OCD usually begins to appear in late childhood or early adolescence.

OCD is a distressing and debilitating condition, which can often be chronic and deteriorate without appropriate treatment and support. It can be compounded by depression, and other anxiety conditions including social anxiety, panic disorder and separation anxiety.

Sufferers are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their obsessions and compulsions. However, they feel unable to control their obsessions or resist their compulsions.

obsessive compulsive disorder

What are the OCD symptoms?

Obsessions and compulsions are distressing, exhausting, take up a lot of time, and can significantly interfere with the person's family and social relationships, daily routines, education or working life.

Common obsessions include: fear or contamination from germs, dirt, for example; fears of harm to self or others; intrusive sexual thoughts or images; concerns with symmetry, illness or religious issues; an intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations (phobia).

Common compulsions include: excessive washing; cleaning; checking; hoarding; touching; counting; and repeating routine activities and actions.

Diagnosis of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms can feel embarrassing or shameful for the person suffering. For this reason, OCD can go undiagnosed for much too long, during which time compulsive behaviour can become ingrained and damaging. This may mean adults become housebound or children cannot attend school.

The first step towards help is seeing a doctor or psychologist who can recognise the symptoms.

Health professionals need to distinguish between other similar mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. Beginning the assessment process is a positive step towards recovery.

What are the treatments for OCD?

OCD can be successfully treated, enabling you to live happier, more fulfilling lives. Treatment will help you manage your intrusive obsessions and compulsions. It may not cure your OCD (which can be lifelong) but it can help you control symptoms and stop them ruling your life. The best results may come from a combination of treatments.

Some tools for helping to manage OCD are:

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT): By working with your psychologist, you can learn new and more positive ways to cope with symptoms. You are gently encouraged to resist doing your compulsive behaviours and find other means of reducing your anxiety. Over time, this causes the symptoms to reduce. This is the most common form of treatment.
  • Exercise: Gentle to moderate exercise can increase your fitness and mental health.
  • Relaxation techniques: Becoming aware of your breathing and actively trying to slow it down when it's required.
  • Medication: Antidepressants are used for the treatment of OCD in Australia and can be very effective. They can assist the brain restore a normal chemical balance.
  • Community support: OCD can be an isolating disorder. People with OCD and their families can benefit from support groups, where people share coping strategies and develop a support network. Family therapy may also be helpful. Community support and connection can play a vital role in rebuilding lives.

 

If you think you might have OCD, please contact our friendly receptionists on 1300830552 and they will be able to find you the right Psychologist for you. We have specialist Psychologists in every capital city around Australia, so we most likely have one near you.

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