Over the last few months, I’ve been running a series of workshops aimed at those working within a health care or teaching capacity and who were likely to be seeing the inhibiting effects of anxiety among their clients. Frustrations around the inability of health industry workers to help their patients properly and use the skills that they learned while training to look after others have been running high. During these discussions, recurring themes came up and I thought it would make a useful blog for those who are seeing these issues in their clients and where there are enough of us raising similar concerns perhaps it can drive conversations at a higher level.
- Convincing Clients to Ask for Help
This was the most common issue that arose when discussing anxiety with those in healthcare. Firstly that workers were finding it difficult to admit they were experiencing anxiety let alone actively seeking help. This put the healthcare workers in the awkward position of speculating with their patients; sometimes their patients would admit they needed the help of this kind, other times conversations such as these led to a sense of distrust and defensiveness. In a group environment, it’s not uncommon for others to get a feel for this discontent and a negative atmosphere descend on the group, making it more difficult to make progress.
- Clients incapable of finding support
Another big issue which was partially due to the age range of the patients but in most cases, it was a lack of capability to access help services. They had logistical difficulties if they were directed to a service and even greater difficulties navigating through online platforms because they were not digitally savvy. These frustrations could cause patients to give up entirely on trying to address the anxiety.
- Cognitive Awareness
Many struggled, not only to recognise their anxiety but make active decisions to deal with it. Anxiety affects the thinking ability and when this is coupled with fears or hesitations about where to go many patients would experience a total shut down.
- Health Service Oversaturated
With the health service being stretched and giving priority to traditional medical issues anxiety appears to have been relegated to a less serious health issue. Even when a patient may be aware and actively seeking help the infrastructure is often not in place for the patients to be seen. On occasions, anxiety was not seen as an urgent issue and clients are dismissed and left to deal with anxiety on its own. This has a hefty consequence for the patient as anxiety does not go away on its own and only grows when left to its own devices.
- Advanced Anxiety
When anxiety has grown to a certain size it is there to stay. It doesn’t matter whether their health professional tells them that their perceived issue isn’t serious because their symptoms continue to get worse. Their fears escalate and they turn to avoidance tactics, sometimes resulting in becoming housebound and isolated. Isolation is a big problem amongst the clients of healthcare workers. Patients can’t get referred because of a shortage of staff and resources and the more the patient is left to their own devices the more anxious they become. When a client is in an advanced state of anxiety it is very difficult to help them. They withdraw from society fearfully. The deeper they are in their journey of anxiety the more inclined they are to retreat into their own head.
Advanced anxiety can culminate in clients being too frightened to leave the house or participate in group activities. A patient with advanced anxiety is unlikely to able to rationalise their feelings properly and need to be around professionals to show them how to calm down and gain control of their emotions. Fears can also manifest themselves in a difficulty in finding the venue or in additional anxiety around socialising and being in a group.
Anxious clients can have difficulty participating in a group and get less out of it unless they are helped to calm down and feel comfortable. If they are supported with this they get a lot out of the sessions and can be transformed at the end of the sessions.
If you are a healthcare worker do you recognise any of the above symptoms in your patients? Are you finding it difficult to help them through anxiety for any of the reasons above? Or are you working somewhere that has started addressing anxiety within patients? I’d love to hear from you.
On a final note, for tips on confronting anxiety why not take a look at an earlier blog ‘Effective Advice to Confront Your Anxiety’ and try to use a few of the suggestions with your patients.