The experience of anxiety will vary from person to person. Central features of anxiety include ongoing worry or thoughts that are distressing and that interfere with daily living. In addition to worry or negative thinking, symptoms of anxiety may include: confusion, trembling, sweating, faintness or dizziness, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, upset stomach or nausea, restlessness, avoidance behaviour and irritability.
Anxiety can manifest in a number of disorders:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder - This disorder involves persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work, family or health, with associated physical symptoms. This worry can be difficult to control, leading to problems in concentration, restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
Specific phobia - People with a specific phobia experience extreme anxiety and fear if exposed to a particular feared object or situation. Common phobias include fear of flying, spiders and other animals, heights or small spaces.
Panic Disorder - Panic Disorder occurs when a person has sudden surges of overwhelming fear that come without warning. These panic attacks often only last a few minutes, but repeated episodes may continue to occur.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - In OCD a person has repeated, upsetting thoughts called obsessions (e.g., "there are germs everywhere"). To make these thoughts go away, the person will often perform certain behaviours, called compulsions, over and over again (e.g., repeated hand washing). These compulsions can take over a person's life and while people with OCD usually know that their obsessions and compulsions are an over-reaction, they can't stop them.
Social Anxiety Disorder - In Social Anxiety Disorder the person has severe anxiety about being criticised or negatively evaluated by others. This leads to the person avoiding social events and being afraid of doing something that leads to embarrassment or humiliation.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -PTSD can occur after exposure to a frightening and traumatic event. People with PTSD re-experience the traumatic event through memories and/or dreams, they tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event, and are extremely sensitive to normal life experiences that are associated with the event.
The word depression is used to describe various and sometimes overlapping experiences. To many people being depressed means feeling sad, 'blue', downhearted, disappointed, detached or upset. However, a person can feel all these emotions without being ‘clinically' depressed. Feelings of sadness or the ‘blues' are generally brief and have slight effects on normal functioning.
Clinical depression is an emotional, physical and cognitive (thinking) state that is intense and long-lasting and has more negative effects on a person's day-to-day life. Approximately one in five people will experience an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime.
It is also important to distinguish depression from the sadness we naturally experience after loss, such as during bereavement. Although the grief associated with loss is often intense and long lasting, such emotions are a healthy response to loss and allow people to adjust to their new life circumstances. Depression on the other hand, can have significant and detrimental effects on many aspects of a person's life. It is generally important to consider what is causing and maintaining the depression for improvement to take place. This may involve a person approaching life stresses or relationships differently, making lifestyle changes, regaining self-esteem or reconnecting with his or her values.
Finally, it is helpful for depressed people to understand what depression is and isn't. It is not something to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. It is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness, or a lack in discipline or personal strength. It is not just a ‘mood' that someone can ‘snap out of'. Most importantly, depression is not permanent - that is, the chances for recovery are very good. A number of psychological and pharmacological treatments (antidepressant medication) are effective, affordable and readily available.
Symptoms of Depression include:
- Loss in interest in pleasurable activities and daily routine - people are often unable to complete daily tasks and do not enjoy activities they previously took pleasure in. They find it difficult to experience more positive feelings and the people around them nay suffer as a result.
- Worrying and negative thinking - worry about the future and having negative thoughts about themselves and their circumstances. These thinking patterns are unhelpful in that they reduce a person's ability to focus on recovery and tend to increase their vulnerability to other unhealthy emotions and behaviours.
- Irritability, agitation and fatigue - people often report feeling irritable and agitated and may complain of exhaustion. sometimes they feel frustrated with their rate of recovery, level of support or the lack of energy to do anything. They may become easily upset with those around them. Irritability, agitation and fatigue are often made worse by changes in sleeping patterns and other symptoms associated with depression, such as negative thinking.
- Changes in sleeping patterns - people with depression often report not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much. Disruptive sleeping patterns can make a person feel worse and make routine task and activities seem overly difficult and frustrating.
- Hopelessness - people with depression often report feeling trapped and hopeless about their situation. They may be apathetic about their life and in severe cases report suicidal thoughts.
The Australian Psychological Society Charter for Clients
Before people can work as psychologists they must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA). Your psychologist is a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), which is the largest professional association of psychologists in Australia, with a comprehensive Code of Ethics and complementary series of Ethical Guidelines.
As a client of an APS psychologist, you have a right to expect that:
You will be treated with respect
You will receive a clear explanation of the service you will receive
Your consent for any service will be sought by the psychologist prior to the service
commencing and as it progresses
You will receive an explanation about the nature and limits of confidentiality
surrounding the service
You will be clear about the goals that you and the psychologist are working toward
You will receive competent and professional service
You will receive a clear statement about fees
An estimate of the number of sessions required to achieve your goals will be discussed
You will receive a service free from sexual harassment
You will be shown respect for your cultural background and language tradition
NOTE: If you have any concerns about the above matters, discuss them with your psychologist. If you have concerns about the conduct of your psychologist, you may call either the Psychology Board of Australia on 1300 419 495, or the Australian Psychological Society on (03) 8662 3300.
© The Australian Psychological Society Ltd