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We are an anxious bunch

By Emily Norman

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Wairarapa is the most anxious region in New Zealand, with one in five adults suffering from anxiety and mood disorders.

Latest Ministry of Health data reveals 21.7 per cent of all adults in Wairarapa have been diagnosed with anxiety, which gives sufferers the tell-tale signs of a racing heart, sweaty hands, breathlessness and nausea.

One anxiety sufferer in Masterton said he is “not at all” surprised by the statistics, and suggested a lot of anxiety sufferers are not diagnosed and not represented in the statistics.

At 28 years old, Hamish Herrick has spent the last eight years overcoming his social anxiety.

“For me, it’s more of a physical reaction,” he said.

“The tightening of the chest, shortening of breath, getting dizzy, sweaty palms and shaky legs.

“Then I start worrying about it mentally because of these physical symptoms.

“That sort of spirals into getting worse and worse, it’s terrifying.”

Mr Herrick said his anxiety symptoms began when he was 20 years old living in Australia.

“It alienated me from my friends, it stopped me being able to work and live a normal life like going to the grocery shop, standard day- to- day things that people take for granted.”

As an anxiety sufferer, it was daunting overcoming the disorder.

“Most professionals in my experience are quite standoffish,” he said.

“It feels like they don’t know anything about anxiety.

“I found that I did a lot of counselling on myself because I just couldn’t get the help that I needed.”

Mr Herrick’s coping mechanisms included breathing techniques, grounding himself, and “taking time to tell yourself that it’s not permanent”.

“Nobody’s ever died from anxiety,” he said.

Mr Herrick now works as a massage therapist at H2 Therapeutic Massage after finding solace in the therapy.

“With anxiety, you obviously tense up a whole lot, especially through your chest.

“That’s one of the main reasons I got into massage therapy, because of the results I got.”

The Ministry of Health data also revealed Wairarapa scored highest in anxiety for the age group of 15-24 year olds with 17.8 per cent suffering anxiety or mood disorders, and 25.3 per cent of 45-64 year olds diagnosed.

One in four women in Wairarapa are also clinically anxious.

Clinical Psychologist for Anxiety New Zealand Shona Harvey said anxiety produced a fight or flight response which often led to avoidance behaviour.

“Anxiety is very cyclical, she said.

“Anxiety feeds anxiety, feeds anxiety- the answer is to try to break that cycle,” she said.

“The first port of call is to take a deep breath through the nose, pause for a moment, and then exhale slowly. “That triggers the brain to relax and that interrupts anxious thoughts.

“It’s all about finding things that work for each person.”

Anxiety New Zealand have a national 24- hour help line 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389).


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