National mental health organisation beyondblue has launched a new anti-anxiety campaign aimed at combating the disorder which affects over 2 million Australians.

The Get to Know Anxiety initiative is the first national anti-anxiety campaign to target people across the country, and comes amid a growing body of evidence that shows the urgent need to educate people about the debilitating condition.

Recent research by Roy Morgan shows that the proportion of Australians that suffer from the condition has boomed by almost 40 per cent over the last four years, with an estimated 2.4 millions Australians now suffering from its effects to some extent.

beyondblue’s Chairman, Jeff Kennett, said that despite its high prevalence rate, most Australians are unable to recognise the symptoms, and so don’t seek help.

“Anxiety is even more common than depression with one in four Australians experiencing an anxiety condition at some stage in their lives,” Mr Kennett said.

“But while the Roy Morgan data tells us anxiety conditions are a growing problem, separate beyondblue research shows only 12% of Australians view anxiety as a major mental health problem, compared with 58% who view depression as one. So while people increasingly identify as having anxiety, they don’t see it as a major mental health problem. They think ‘being anxious’ is just a part of their personality.

“An anxiety condition is, of course, different from stress, which everyone experiences occasionally, for example before exams or when giving a speech. But when anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue after a stressful event has passed, it may be a sign of an anxiety condition.”

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said the campaign aims to raise awareness of anxiety in the same way beyondblue had raised awareness of depression over the last 12 years.

“Currently, awareness of anxiety is very low,” she said. “People can spend years dealing with symptoms such as obsessive thoughts, relentless worrying or panic attacks and think it’s just a part of who they are. In fact, they could be living with an undiagnosed anxiety condition that can severely limit their ability to function day to day.