YOUR heart starts racing. Sweaty palms. A feeling of desperately wanting to escape suddenly sweeps over you.
If you’re about to skydive or swim with sharks no one would question these feelings.
But for those who experience these heightened emotions at a simple birthday party, attending their child’s parent-teacher night or when speaking at a work function or to a sales assistant, it can be debilitating and isolating.
How do you tell a friend you’re only one step away from a panic attack at just the thought of going to their wedding where you will have to socialise with new people?
The reality is many people dealing with anxiety don’t say anything. Not to their partner, their mates or their doctor. They can become experts at avoiding situations which trigger their anxiety and adept at masking symptoms.
Just as triggers, levels and symptoms are different in each individual, so is the journey in recognising anxiety and seeking advice and support.
One local man, Xavier, is using his journey to try and reach out to others.
“I just felt there was a need for a local anxiety support group so I’ve gone about organising one,” Xavier said.
“Dealing with my own issues made me feel we should have a group in the community that was open to all ages, male and female, where people could share in a non-judgmental space what has worked for them and maybe get back on track.”
Being anxious about going to a job interview is normal. Frequent worry not related to a specific event or stressful situation is not. Excessive fear, obsessive thinking, irritability, physical symptoms such as hot or cold flushes, a tightening of the chest, a racing heart or breathlessness; these are some of the signs experienced by people with anxiety. And this should not be accepted as anyone’s “normal”.
“Anxiety comes in all forms; OCD, panic attacks, agoraphobia. People avoid doing things they really love, as well as the simpler things like shopping, when they have anxiety. It can be very isolating and lead to loneliness. I know, I’ve felt it.”
You wouldn’t tell a mate with depression “cheer up, don’t be sad” and expect a result. It’s the same with anxiety. Saying to someone or telling yourself, “relax, don’t worry” is not going to cut it.
A good place to seek help is with a visit to the doctor. Seeing a GP will ensure diagnosis and an individual plan of action. The medical profession has access to resources and can suggest services you may not be aware exist.
If you would like to be part of the Coffs Harbour Anxiety Support Group, meetings start February 7 from 11am to noon then every second Tuesday at the Neighbourhood Centre, Earl St, Coffs Harbour. More info Xavier 0411 338 699.
“Come for a cup of tea or coffee, a chat or just to listen. You don’t have to be alone.”