Anxiety poorly understood

In a disturbing finding, new figures have revealed one in five Australians believe people experiencing anxiety ‘put it on’ to avoid difficult or uncomfortable situations and around half of Australians don’t know basic facts about the condition.

A snapshot survey of 1200 Australians by research agency TNS Australia revealed that most people were aware of anxiety as a mental health condition, but damaging attitudes and discrimination still remain, with almost half agreeing that people with anxiety are judged or discriminated against.

Beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said she was encouraged to find 80% of the people surveyed acknowledged it was a real condition, 45% understood it affected a significant proportion of the population and 62% agreed anxiety could be cured.

“A quarter of us will experience anxiety at some point, so it is concerning that roughly half of us still have either misconceptions or are unaware of the condition, its symptoms and treatment,” she said.

“Anxiety is not just feeling stressed or worried, it is when these feelings don’t subside and are ongoing without any particular reason or cause. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings can't be easily controlled.”

The findings underline the significance of beyondblue’s revamped “Get To Know Anxiety” featuring Australian actor Guy Pearce, who provided the voice over for the campaign. He has previously spoken publicly about his experiences of anxiety in the early days of his acting career.

“This is the third year of the campaign and it seems like some parts of the message are getting through but we need to keep the effort up,” said Ms Harman.

“While it is great to see improvements in public awareness, what is of great concern is the number of people who have no knowledge about anxiety. Large numbers of people said they don’t know facts about the condition, which shows there is a lot of confusion and we are working to reduce that.

“It is not just the relatively small number of harmful and incorrect attitudes we are working to change, but the larger proportion of the public who are unaware that anxiety can be effectively be managed and treated.

“Anxiety can be effectively managed through a range of treatments that can ensure a person learns how to control their anxiety, rather than let it control them.”

The survey results revealed:

Half of those surveyed either didn’t know (33%) or incorrectly believed (14%) that anxiety was part of someone’s personality

More than a third (37%) didn’t know if anxiety could be successfully treated

40% of the population said they don’t know how prevalent anxiety is, or incorrectly thought only a small proportion were affected (14%).

For further information about anxiety, visit beyondblue.org.au/anxiety