Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and, frighteningly, the leading cause of ill health in girls and women aged between five and 44. One in three women will experience anxiety in their lifetime, with numerous studies suggesting the condition is on the rise.
Yet despite these statistics, a stigma still swirls. To mark Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month in October, marie claire spoke to seven high-profile women about their experiences with anxiety and how they’ve learnt to cope.
Amongst these was model and TV host Jesinta Franklin, 27, who first experienced anxiety in 2010 after being crowned Miss Universe Australia. Then, “a few years ago, I was lying in bed and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and that my chest was caving in. I went to the doctors because I thought I had a heart problem and it was actually anxiety. My anxiety is a physical thing: my heart rate goes through the roof and my hands get clammy.”
For Franklin, taking some me-time and soaking in a bath is an instant de-stressor; speaking to a counsellor and her doctor, as well as opening up to friends and family, are also key to managing her symptoms.
Sarah-Jane Clarke, co-founder of Sass & Bide, agrees. “At first speaking about my anxiety made me feel vulnerable and exposed. [But] since I started talking about it, I’ve realised I was not alone and that [has given] me a lot of strength and comfort.”
As a fixture on the fashion circuit, Clarke says she used to use drinking to help ease social anxiety at parties and events. “In 2016 I realised alcohol was no longer doing me any favours … I decided to take a year off drinking and it was then when I realised the direct link between alcohol and my anxiety.”
For others, like actress Leah Purcell of Wentworth and Love Child, staying active helps curb chronic angst. “I channel my anxiety into a punching bag. At the end of the session I’ve got endorphins running through me and feel much more balanced.”
Former Australian PM and beyondblue chairperson Julia Gillard also shared a personal message with marie claire readers, encouraging those struggling to seek support. “New research from beyondblue tells us that almost nine out of 10 people do not see anxiety as a sign of weakness … It affects two million people [in Australia each year]. So my message to you is that you’re not alone.”
Read the full story in marie claire November 2018, on sale October 4.