Help available for anxiety sufferers
Around a quarter of us suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point. Fortunately the Anxiety New Zealand Trust is on hand to help. Reporter Emma Whittaker spoke to chief executive Vivienne Euini about the work it does.
Vivienne Euini’s interest in helping Kiwis overcome anxiety disorders is personal.
Watching close family members navigate the dark compressed world they create has given her an insight.
‘‘Like most people, I had no knowledge of exactly what anxiety disorders were.
‘‘We went through hell basically. By the time we got to the trust I was extremely grateful for the help we got. As I learned about the disorders and the treatment involved, the more interested I became,’’ she says.
Euini started off volunteering in the trust’s office. She has a background in banking and took up the top job in November when the former head, Marcia Read, retired.
Euini’s appointment coincided with a name change for the organisation which had been called the Phobic Trust since being founded by Read in the 1980s.
Read suffered from agoraphobia in her younger years but found there was little understanding of the condition and it was difficult to get help.
We all get anxious at some point, she says.
‘‘Anxiety is our way of coping with stressful and dangerous situations. It’s our natural behaviour to survive,’’ Euini says.
‘‘There is healthy anxiety and then there is the opposite.’’
While there is nothing unusual about feeling a bit worried about a big life event or if you’ve had a tough week at work, anxiety disorders take things to another level, she says.
They are conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), agoraphobia and other specific phobias.
‘‘At the severe end of the scale it is a disability . . . because it is stopping someone living a normal life,’’ Euini says.
Someone with agoraphobia will have an underlying fear of being somewhere they cannot easily escape from or get to a place of safety. It might mean they struggle to be in public places like supermarkets and could ultimately be unable to leave their home.
Those suffering from OCD have repetitive and unwanted thoughts, images or impulses that make them anxious. The trust also treats eating disorders.
About 25 per cent of people are known to have suffered from an anxiety related condition, although the number is likely to be much higher as only a small proportion seek treatment.
‘‘The biggest barrier is the stigma involved because it is mental health. People often don’t seek help because they don’t want to be thought of as crazy,’’ Euini says.
The exact cause of anxiety disorders isn’t known but they are likely the result of a combination of factors including changes in the brain and stress.
A lot of support
is available to sufferers and their families but there is still plenty of work to do when it comes to educating New Zealanders about anxiety, Euini says.
Her long-term goals include revitalising the trust’s brand and expanding its reach nationwide.
‘‘I’d love to see us with clinics throughout the country,’’ she says.
‘‘I guess it’s a case of really managing it as a business, with growth in mind and then having strategies based around that.’’
Anxiety New Zealand Trust chief executive Vivienne Euini.