Anxiety. Australia’s Silent Epidemic


Anxiety expert Barry McDonagh sat down with RESCU to explain what exactly anxiety is, and how to stop panic attacks.

If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks you might think your problem is very unique and singular to you.

It isn’t. It’s not one bit unique at all. There are literally millions of perfectly sane, normal people who have the exact same problem you do.

In fact anxiety is Australia’s silent epidemic. It is the most common mental condition in the country with on average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – who will experiencing it in their lifetime.


But why do we still treat it like a dirty little secret?

Maybe you lead a secret double life where you hide it from others like a shameful secret? To the outside world you pretend that all is well while inside you fear you might lose your mind. I bet very few people would even suspect you have a problem with anxiety at all. That double life is exhausting. You might have one or two close friends who suspect something because you frequently avoid certain situations, but by and large the rest of the people in your world don’t suspect a thing.

Someone once remarked to me, while I was going through a particularly rough phase with my own anxiety, that I seemed as laid back as a duck floating down a stream. What they never realised was that underneath the water this duck was paddling like crazy just to stay upright!

Anxiety and shame can play off each other in an almost comical manner. For example, let’s say you’re having lunch with some work colleagues. Suddenly your heart skips a beat and your chest tightens. In a split second you convince yourself you’re about to have a heart attack BUT instead of asking them to call for an ambulance, you excuse yourself politely and make for the bathroom.

You would rather die alone from cardiac arrest in a toilet cubicle than cause a scene! That’s anxiety for you.

All of this hiding and secrecy causes a great deal of unnecessary shame for people. There is no shame in suffering with an anxiety problem. Once you become willing to address it, the journey to a full recovery can begin.

I have taught thousands of people all around the world to break free from anxiety.

The SECRET is to get them to embrace and move with their anxious sensations instead of against them. What that means is that if you are willing to mindfully observe your fear and anxiety, you can transform it into a much more useful energy –excitement! What we resist persists, and what we accept, we can transform. That is how we end the fear-of-fear. 

When we fully accept our anxiety by allowing it to be present, without begrudging it, it then goes through a subtle transformation.

As Lama Govinda said, “We are transformed by what we accept.”
The current anxiety epidemic is fuelled by the speed of modern life and always having to be connected 24/7. We never get time to switch off and relax properly.

The good news is that if anxiety is a problem for you, there is a solution. There is a way out of the anxiety trap. All it takes is a little courage and a desire to win back your freedom!


Barry McDonagh is an international best selling author of several books related to the treatment of anxiety. He will be speaking October 8th at Mercure hotel in Sydney for event The Dare Project. He will be joined by other leading health experts: Jacinta McDonell of Anytime Fitness, Tom Cronin of The Stillness Project, Kate Kendall from Flow Athletic and Michelle Cavanaugh – New York social worker.
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