Today, depression is widely recognised and understood in Australia. People have been educated to pick up tell-tale signs so that professional help can be accessed quickly.
There is less resistance to seeking help for depression today by both males and females. Moreover, it appears that seeking treatment for depression is viewed as an intelligent choice, or an imperative, but not as a weakness. Whereas in the past there was some stigma at having depression, today it seems to have disappeared.
Anxiety has not fared as well as depression in these areas. The findings of the recent National Health Survey were that anxiety was not seen or reacted to in the same way as depression.
- Australians seem less likely to recognise symptoms of anxiety whether it was Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), social anxiety or phobias.
- Anxiety sufferers were less likely to seek help in Australia. Since around 15% of Australians suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year, this is a worrying finding.
- Having symptoms of anxiety and seeking treatment are judged negatively and viewed as being a sign of weakness. This means that even those people who recognise that they are suffering from anxiety, stay away from admitting it and asking for help.
In short, suffering from depression is not seen as a weakness but suffering from anxiety is. Moreover, symptoms of depression are recognised and deemed worthy of treatment but anxiety symptoms are not. Why would this be the case?
- One theory of why symptoms of anxiety are not labelled as such is because they may be difficult to recognise as symptoms requiring treatment. Many of the common symptoms of anxiety are found frequently in the normal population. After all, we all worry sometimes, don’t we?
- Moreover, we may all actually experience classic symptoms of anxiety when needing to write exams, speak publicly or win at sports. At which point do we declare that the symptoms are pathological?
- Since anxiety symptoms can occur along a continuum, and be erratic, we may tend to normalise symptoms when in fact they have reached significant proportions.
- A possible reason anxiety is seen as a weakness may be because worriers are seen as “overreacting”. Healthy people believe that everyone should be capable of coping with life stressors without getting into a knot over them.
- Avoiding stressful situations may also smack of weakness. People afraid of lifts, dogs, flying or social events are viewed as non-copers, too weak to face normal life situations.
- Since anxious individuals are not at risk for suicide, perhaps the need for treatment is not taken as seriously.
Whatever the reasons that people with anxiety are viewed in this negative light, it is vital that symptomsof anxiety get taken seriously. No-one should have to walk around feeling uncomfortable and fearful if they do not have to.
Therefore, if you or a family member are suffering from symptoms of anxiety and they persist for more than 2 weeks, seek professional help as soon as possible.
If you are unsure, but feel subjectively distressed, do not hesitate to seek an opinion from a qualified professional. Your wellbeing is more important than the ignorant views of onlookers.