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.

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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.’’

Photo: EMMA WHITTAKER

Top seat:

Anx­i­ety New Zealand Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive Vivi­enne Eu­ini.

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