The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) produced a report last year about the impact of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are one of those mental health problems that are described as common mental disorders – these are mental health problems that are, well, common! What I mean is that they can be a common experience for a lot of people. The report estimates that just under 5% of the UK population are affected. Despite it being widespread the Foundation maintain the extent was under-reported. Possibly because people regarded it something to be endured rather than treated.
Some people talk about us living in an age of anxiety, with a fast pace of life, and stresses around jobs and debt without the social and family support people might have experienced in earlier times. BBC Radio 4’s new series of ‘All in the Mind’ has just been looking at pressures on young people and how those are reflected in rising levels of anxiety disorders. You can hear about this at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06kch0z
Because anxiety disorders are common, this does not mean they are not distressing, and we also have to recognise that whilst being anxious about certain events – a driving test, a medical appointment, happens to most of us, and indeed is a perfectly normal and necessary response to react to difficult situations, it becomes a problem when the severity and the impact of the anxiety is so huge that the person cannot manage their own life in the way they used to.
Getting the right treatment
There are treatments available, and the QCS Anxiety Policy and Procedure guides us to these including a link to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines. The MHF Report also provides some links to information about self-help treatments. The report, titled ‘Living with Anxiety’ is available as a free download at: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/living-with-anxiety-report.pdf?view=Standard
Identifying the impact
So how do we go about identifying when being anxious becomes a mental health problem that warrants treatment? Here are some useful pointers:
- Is the nature of the problem so disabling that it means the person’s life is affected, in terms of their self-care, their personal relationships, or their ability to go about their day-to-day routine?
- Has it been going on for some time? If so was there a change, a difference between how the person was six months or a year ago, and now?
- Is there a safety element? Is the anxiety so distressing that the person has expressed ideas of harming themselves?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then we should be looking for further assessment and treatment of the problem. The answers to these questions will provide vital information for any referral.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor
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