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Anxiety, chronic stress and burnout are on the rise, with new data from The Banyans Healthcare Group revealing a significant increase in mental health enquiries.

In fact, enquiries for anxiety increased by 99 percent in the first seven months of this year than in the first five months of 2021 – 104 percent for females enquiring for themselves.

Seeking support for alcohol and prescription medication dependency treatment is also on the rise, as are enquiries for eating disorders which increased by 78 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.

In response to these surges, the Banyans Healthcare Group is launching new specialist wellbeing programs. They’re designed for people experiencing conditions like anxiety and stress, and provide flexible support to work around jobs, family life and other commitments.

To find out more, we chatted with consultant psychiatrist Dr Sampath Arvapalli.

What might an anxiety disorder look like on a day-to-day basis?

It’s normal to feel nervous and stressed intermittently throughout your life. However, an anxiety disorder differs when these feelings become more persistent and pervasive in your life. Anxiety is a response to stress, where your mind and body get into a freeze, fight or flight mode. An anxiety disorder may manifest through persistent, excessive fear or worry in routine situations. Some symptoms may include sleeping issues, fatigue, muscle tension and gastrointestinal issues – all of which can lead to further health issues if the condition becomes chronic. 

How does stress differ from chronic stress, and how can you tell if you are suffering from the latter?

Stress in small amounts can, to a certain degree, be a beneficial addition to a productive and healthy life. Stress is a response to an external cause, which could be a work deadline, busy day, or conflict. When feelings of stress become unrelenting throughout a person’s day-to-day life is when an individual may be suffering from chronic stress and burnout. Some chronic stress symptoms may manifest in physical, cognitive, and behavioural ways such as exhaustion, insomnia, disinterest, memory issues and general aches and pains. If these feelings resonate with you and you notice that they are impacting your ability to function normally and perform in your work or normal life, it may be time to get professional help.

What are some of the most common causes of chronic stress and anxiety?

There is no set trigger for chronic stress and anxiety disorders, with the situation being entirely dependent on the individual. There may be a heightened sense of anxiety during certain times of year, such as Christmas or during a stressful personal time such as moving house, exam periods, times of economic uncertainty, a first date or job interview. What is important to recognise is that not everyone who has anxiety or stress will have the same cause for their diagnosis, and it can be difficult to generalise. 

Many common anxiety triggers can’t be avoided altogether (work, family dramas, financial stress, etc.) so how can we manage our response to them instead?

Anxiety and stress can be managed at home with varying degrees of success. We recommend you getting in contact with a health professional when you feel that these feelings are persistent and impacting your ability to operate normally. Some things to keep in mind while managing your response to stressors in everyday life may include speaking to a trusted person about your feelings, getting into an exercise routine, learning relaxation techniques such as breathing, mindfulness, journaling, social connection, and spending time outdoors. 

It’s also important that you understand how to identify a panic attack caused by anxiety. Panic attacks are overwhelming episodes of extreme anxiety which can come without warning. Some symptoms of an attack may be excessive sweating, shortness of breath, distress, fear of passing out and numbness or tingling. While this list is not exhaustive, it is important to note that attacks can be treated through various means, however, if you feel you are having one, try some simple deep breathing techniques.

What can happen if you don’t treat an anxiety disorder or chronic stress?

If left untreated, the impacts of chronic stress and anxiety disorders can affect your mental and physical health. Impacted individuals can experience difficulty concentrating and being productive, increased mood swings, insomnia, anxiety attacks and the inability to cope with everyday life. Symptoms often become more intense over time and gradually build to an excessive amount, making it difficult to go out and enjoy your life. It can also impact those around you including your children and loved ones, resulting in strained relationships. 

Furthermore, in some cases, people can attempt to self-medicate chronic stress with alcohol and other substances that may lead to addiction issues. It’s that important that people seek healthy coping mechanisms to elevate feelings of chronic stress instead.

When might someone need to seek medical treatment for their anxiety or chronic stress?

You may begin to notice that there are times when the stress or anxiety is impacting your ability to complete everyday tasks, making it difficult to get things done and impacting your way of life. Stress and anxiety shouldn’t be keeping you from doing the activities you love to do, such as spending time with your children or partner, visiting family and friends, going to the shops or doing the school drop off and pick up. Keep in mind, it is important that you treat yourself with compassion when you notice anxiety and stress taking over your life. Help is available and you can reclaim your life and manage your treatment with the support of healthcare professionals. 

Why do you think more females than males were enquiring about anxiety in 2022? What can women do about this?

At The Banyans Healthcare Group we have seen a growing demand for anxiety management by women since the start of 2022. With worries such as loneliness, work and family stress, economic stress and affects from the lockdowns still lingering, women are continuing to feel the effects. This could also be because there’s a bigger stigma surrounding men’s mental health, where men may feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help when they’re feeling anxious whereas women are often more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Dealing with stress and anxiety at the source can be simple if you reach out to a healthcare professional when you start to notice the first signs. The Banyans Health Plus Anxiety Management Day Program is the newest program which tackles anxiety recovery delivered in a personal, flexible, and mindful way. Our team of medical professionals provide a multidisciplinary response to anxiety, where practitioners create comprehensive action plans personalised to each individual. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you or a loved one needs it.

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