Three Women Explain Their Battle With Australia’s Biggest Health Epidemic

"I even contemplated suicide"

It is often described as an invisible illness, but for sufferers of anxiety the condition is anything but dormant. Anxiety is currently the most common mental health condition in Australian, with one in two young women reportedly experiencing high anxiety and increasing numbers of us are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders, according to a recent NAB report.

This ‘Age of Anxiety’ is rampant throughout the Western world and it can hit anyone at any time, with many of sufferers being those you’d least expect.

Below, three young women describe their mental health battles with anxiety.

Marja Jacobsen

Yoga Instructor, 35

Marja Jacobsen

Moving to Australia from Hong Kong when I was eight was a tough transition for me. At school, friends called me hyper: I was skittish, and I would move quickly to try and control the tremors that would shake my whole body when I was feeling uncomfortable. Even going to the movies would bring on a bout of anxiety. My heart would start beating out of my chest thinking the tickets could sell out. I didn’t talk to anyone about it; I didn’t know what to say.

It was only as I got older that I realised what it was and how to manage it. At 19, I started practicing yoga and it immediately clicked—this was what helped. And not just in managing my anxiety, but also accepting it. I don’t see anxiety as something within me that needs to change or be fixed. Now, I’m a yoga teacher at that same studio, and I love helping people feel comfortable in their skin.

I still have some social anxiety. I can be quite extroverted when I want to be, but when I know I need time alone but go out anyway, my body reacts. Learning to really accept who you are is a tough journey. Yes, I have anxiety and yes, it makes me reclusive sometimes and some people think I’m being rude. I love it when people call me out for cancelling, because I can look them in the eye and say yes, I know I do that and I’m okay with it. I have my own back.


Lawyer, 34

Social interaction used to cause me physical pain, sometimes for days afterwards. The lowest point was when I started to feel like I didn’t want to leave the safety of my home. I shrunk my life. I had this gorgeous wardrobe and I’d think, this is fashion for a life that I don’t have.

When I first started working, I would have migraines and muscle tightness, and I’d only wear black to hide the sweating… but I didn’t connect it to anxiety.

My turning point was earlier this year when I realised I’d actually started to enjoy socialising again. Medication, Pilates, walking and my supportive husband all keep me on track.

*Name has been changed at request.

Jess Gazal

Personal Trainer, 21

Jess Gazal

I was confident, outgoing and excelled at sport. Until one day in Year 10, I was playing touch football and I found myself struggling to breathe. Lurching form the field, my terror increased because I had no idea what was happening to me. My dad is a doctor and even he couldn’t figure out that I was having a panic attack. I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety. And it got worse. By the time I was sitting my HSC the panic attacks were regular. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t I go school. I even contemplated suicide.

Now, I see my psychologist every week but it’s very frustrating. I expect too much of myself. I’m a perfectionist. It’s very hard to accept that I need to relax and ease into things instead of going full throttle.

I love sport, but raising my heart rate tricks my body into a panic attack—which makes life hard as a personal trainer! Things would be a lot simpler without the fear of panic attacks, but anxiety has also helped prove to myself just how strong I am.

Where to get help

Your GP can help assess your anxiety and create a Mental Health Treatment Plan, including Medicare-funded counselling and medication where necessary

For mental health information, support and services, visit

Pregnant or just had a baby? Visit or call the national helpline: 1300 726 306

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