What is anxiety?
According to Beyond Blue, anxiety is the most common mental health problem in Australia. It affects one in three women and one in five men at some stage in life. Over a one year period, over two million Australians may experience anxiety. There are a number of forms including social phobia, , specific phobias and generalised anxiety disorder.
It is more than simply feeling stressed or worried. Anxiety is characterised by persistent worry. It is normal to feel anxious at times especially in stressful situations. Anxiety is where these feeling persist after the stressful situation or stressor has passed. Or it may occur in the absence of any ‘reason” to feel anxious. When anxious feelings happen without apparent reason or do not resolve after stress eases it can impact our ability to cope with daily life.
The exact cause of anxiety is not known. It is thought to have multiple factors including genetics. Stressful events contribute as can certain personality traits. It can co-exist with other mental health issues such as depression. Anxiety may be part of other medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid. Excessive use of alcohol can also be a factor.
Symptoms of anxiety condition tend to be frequent or persistent and not always connected to an obvious challenge. It impacts quality of life and day-to-day functioning. Different anxiety conditions have their own unique features. However here are some common symptoms.
Physical symptoms include panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
Psychological symptoms include excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
Behavioural symptoms include avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.
Left untreated, anxiety can start to take over peoples lives impacting work and social activities. It can significantly reduce quality of life.
Regular exercise , getting adequate sleep, relaxation training and meditation can all help with anxiety symptoms. The support of family and friends is often beneficial. Some people find herbal teas can have a calming effect but there is no evidence for a variety of herbal supplements.
There are a variety of approaches including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis and mindfulness based therapies to name but a few. There is no “one size fits all” and the decision about which approach is one made between the individual and the psychologist or counsellor.
There are a number of different medications that have been and are used to manage anxiety symptoms. They are not a cure as such. They include antidepressant medications from the SSRI group, beta blockers, and benzodiazepines. The latter need to be used with caution and not long term as they can cause dependence.
There are many complementary therapies and formulations available. The evidence behind them is weak. However, it is true to say that the experience of individuals varies and some report benefit.
Treatment with Medicinal Cannabis
Treatment for anxiety with medicinal cannabis
Medicinal cannabis has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety. It can be prescribed by a doctor when other treatments have failed or have caused unacceptable side effects. Studies suggest that a formulation of pure CBD or high in CBD may be the most useful.