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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My sister has anxiety and doesn't seem to be getting better. please assist?

    My younger sister has 2 small children (4 & 2). She suffers from anxiety and PND. She has been on many medications all of which don't seem to help. She doesn't work and her children are in day care 4 days a week because she can't cope. She tells me she sees a counsellor, but I'm not sure. Her husband has just been diagnosed with depression too and as well as prescription medications he self medicates with alcohol. She often blames my mum and I for not helping her enough and tells us that we have no idea what she is going through. We have both suffered anxiety and I had severe PND for 5 years. This has been going on for 4 years but in the last 18 months it has become worse. I am beginning to worry about the welfare of the children and am doubting if she has the capacity to help herself, but have no idea what to do next. It's destroying my family. Please help with any advice or suggestions.
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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about ... View Profile

    It sounds like you are really overwhelmed with worries about your sister, and the welfare of her children. The most important place to start would be to ensure you have support for yourself - I hope that the treatment you are receiving for anxiety and PND includes strategies to manage your own anxiety about things that you may have very little control over. You are worried about the children's welfare - have you tried to discuss these concerns with your sister, or with your own counsellor? The fact they are in childcare 4 days a week is a good thing - those workers would be able to notice if things were not OK for the children, and would be required by law to take action if they had concerns. Family counselling may be a space where you, your Mum and your sister could be assisted to share your concerns with each other, and to learn ways to better support each other in a way that allows all of you to feel better understood by each other, and not blamed.

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  • Julie Hall

    Counsellor

    I have been a fully Qualified Counsellor for over 21 years in Private Practice working with many health organisations and Companies. I am an integrative ... View Profile

    Anxiety in all it's different forms can take over a person's life. Personal Counselling may help to demistify it's hold upon a person by initially explaining the physiological impact it can have upon a person, right down to emotional and behavioural implications. By working in therapy on addressing one's feelings and working together on agreed goals of therapy, this maybe a positive way forward to make changes in dealing with anxiety, general or otherwise.

    It is perfectly normal to have a little anxiety in our lives to motivate us into acheiving things on a day to day basis i.e getting to work on time and so forth. But when it overwhelms or stops us from doing the things we want to do, or our lives seem out of control because of it, this may be a useful time to consider talking to a Counsellor.

    Combined with PND, feelings of 'feeling dis-empowered' and life feeling 'out of control' maybe present. Seeking a Counsellor who is empathetic and is experienced in working with clients with these issues is the key, however a person has to want to go into Counselling themselves.

    It's important to note not every Counsellor - client fit works. If when talking to your sister she expresses that she is not finding Counselling helpful, then a change of Counsellor maybe and option if she so chooses.     

  • Timothy Douge

    Exercise Physiologist, Pilates Instructor

    I am a Level 1 Pilates Instructor and an Accredited Exercise Physiologist specialising in chronic disease and lifestyle management. I have experience in managing Diabetes, ... View Profile

    From another perspective. There is a bulk of evidence coming out at the moment about the effectiveness of exercise and movement therapy used in conjuction with traditional counselling and psychology methods which are showing greater improvements and better long term health outcomes than any medication we currently prescribe. I AM NOT suggesting your sister stop taking her medication however it is definitely worth a discussion with her GP to include an exercise physiologist as part of her care.

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    Dr Pek Ang

    Psychiatrist

    Specialist Psychiatrist - management of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Bipolar, ADHD, Autism, Mood and Anger problems and Personality Disorders. Management of Psychological problems associated ... View Profile

    The suggestions from other practitioners have been really helpful.  This is a very complex and difficult situation for all concerned.  The solution will not be easy or quick.

    Firstly a thorough assessment of your sister's situation and condition would be good.  I would advise a 2nd Opinion from a Psychiatrist with expertise in treating Depression and Anxiety in the Postnatal period.  The reason being without an accurate diagnosis of all the conditions and taking a very broad formulation of the problem, isolated treatments often don't work well enough.

    It is likely there is a biological component with the family history of Anxiety and PND.  There often is a Psychological component with self concept, role transitions, relationship stress.  Social stressors with the new family, perceived lack of support. And not forgetting important elements of the individual's spirituality and broader connections.

    It is also important to address her husband's mental health needs.  The rate of husband's with PND is much higher than we realise.  Men unfortunately don't want to acknowlege their needs in this area.  Unless his needs are also addressed the system will not change much.

    The children are obviously one of your biggest concerns.  Keeping an eye on their wellbeing is important as you and your family continue to support where you can.

  • Dr Adaobi Udechuku is an Australian Perinatal Psychiatrist in Berwick, Co-Founder and Director of GLOW Clinic http://www.glowclinic.com.au and Clinical Director of The Raphael Centre St ... View Profile

    Such a complex and distressing situation affecting so many in your family.

    In addition to the very sensible advice from others I agree that assisting your sister in having a thorough assessment with a Perinatal Psychiatrist as the first step.  

    Her GP may have someone that he/she refers to or she could try the College of Psychiatrist - Find a Psychaitrist Database https://www.ranzcp.org/Mental-health-advice/find-a-psychiatrist.aspx

    OR

    The Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia PANDA a fantastic NGO that has a national hotline  PANDA National Helpline Mon to Fri, 10am - 5pm AEDT 1300 726 306 and a database of perinatal psychiatrists and psychologists that they can put her in touch with http://www.panda.org.au

    I hope that is helpful, best of luck.

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