New research has revealed anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia.
BeyondBlue conducted a survey of 1400 people and found over two million Australians experience anxiety in any given year.
BeyondBlue CEO Georgie Harman said two in three Australians mistake depression as the most common mental illness in the country.
“In any given year, more than two million Australians will experience anxiety, double the number who experience depression. One in four will experience an anxiety condition sometime during their lifetime,” Ms Harman said.
Health experts say anxiety should not be downplayed because it affects people mentally and physically.
Wollongong clinical psychologist, Dr Brett Deacon said anxiety can be debilitating.
“It’s more than just worrying over the stresses of everyday life, anxiety can make someone feel physically and mentally ill, due to worrying about circumstances that are out of their control,” Dr Deacon said.
Dr Deacon said most anxiety conditions appear during the later teenage years.
“Anxiety affects people of all ages from childhood through to older adulthood. The age of onset for many problems is late teens and early 20s, which is why younger adults and adults are more affected than children,” he said.
BeyondBlue research indicates 50 per cent of mental health conditions emerge by age 14, and one in five people waited more than six years to receive support.
Dr Deacon said more can be done to improve anxiety-related outcomes in Australia.
“I think the worst thing we can do is convey that anxiety is bad – pathological and deviant – and needs to be controlled through ‘coping skills,’ and/or medications. Anxiety is a part of life, and being willing to have it while continuing to live our lives the way we wish to is really important,” Dr Deacon said.
Mental health advocate Madelaine Dunning-Baker said mental illness can be difficult to deal with, especially during the teenage years.
“I struggled with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder for years, I even opted out of my uni degree after my mental health spiked,” Ms Dunning-Baker said.
The 21-year-old works to raise anxiety awareness across the community, most recently at the ‘Walk of Pride,’ event to help others with mental illness.
“Speaking out has really helped me manage my mental illness, which is why I want to encourage others to get help,” she said.
Ms Dunning-Baker said community action can help end stigma about anxiety.
“It can be hard living with a mental illness, but through educating each other about it, we can acknowledge and support one another,” she said.