Bullying and your rights

Bullying has long lasting detrimental affects on a person.

The following information provides some insight into what is bullying, your rights, how bullying can affect you, and what to do if you are being bullied at school.


Your Rights

You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully, these are basic human rights.
Bullying or harassment can be a violation of these rights. It is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts.

Bullying can affect you at home, school, work, in your social life and in your ability to feel happy, healthy and secure.

It is up to governments, schools, workplaces and individuals (including you) to make sure that every human right is respected.

Some of your rights that could be violated by bullying include: 

  • Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence.  Bullying is a form of violence. You have a right to be in a supportive environment (be that at school, work or online) that is respectful, safe and free from violence.
  • Your right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Bullying can cause physical injuries, depression and other health issues.
  • Your right to survival and development. Bullying can have serious impact on your physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development
  • Your right to work and have a fair and safe workplace. Bullying at work can lead to physical and mental stress and depression. It can stop you being able to do your job well and cause you to need increased days off work.
  • Your right to leisure and play. Bullying that occurs in places you play and socialise such as at school and on social networking sites and can impact on your ability to relax and enjoy different activities
  • Your right to education. Bullying at school can make you feel unsafe and unwelcome. It can impact on your concentration and your mental and physical health. This may affect how well you do at school.
  • Your right to participate and have your voice heard. Bullying can make you feel unsafe and prevent you from expressing your feelings and opinions at school, home, work, and with your friends.  You have the right to express your views, to have your concerns taken seriously and to participate in decisions that directly affect you. 
  • Your right to privacy.  Bullying, in particular cyberbullying can make things that are personal public. You have a right to have your privacy respected by others.


What is bullying?

Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing. These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else feel less powerful or helpless. 

The sort of repeated behaviour that can be considered bullying includes:  

  • Keeping someone out of a group (online or offline)
  • Acting in an unpleasant way near or towards someone
  • Giving nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling names, being rude and impolite, and constantly negative teasing.
  • Spreading rumours or lies, or misrepresenting someone (i.e. using their Facebook account to post messages as if it were them)
  • Mucking about that goes too far
  • Harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender or a disability
  • Intentionally and repeatedly hurting someone physically 
  • Intentionally stalking someone
  • Taking advantage of any power over someone else like a Prefect or a Student Representative.

Bullying can happen anywhere. It can be in schools, at home, at work, in online social spaces, via text messaging or via email. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, and it also includes messages, public statements and behaviour online intended to cause distress or harm (also known as cyberbullying). But no matter what form bullying takes, the results can be the same: severe distress and pain for the person being bullied. 


How can bullying affect you?

Bullying affects everyone in different ways. But there are common feelings that come up when you are being bullied. 

How bullying can affect individuals:

  • Feeling guilty like it is your fault
  • Feeling hopeless and stuck like you can’t get out of the situation
  • Feeling alone, like there is no one to help you
  • Feeling like you don’t fit in with the cool group
  • Feeling depressed and rejected by your friends and other groups of people
  • Feeling unsafe and afraid
  • Feeling confused and stressed out wondering what to do and why this is happening to you
  • Feeling ashamed that this is happening to you



How bullying can affect other people:

Bullying can have a negative impact on everyone – it is not just a problem for victims and bullies. If you see or know of others been bullied you may feel angry, fearful, guilty, and sad.  

You may feel as bad as those who are being bullied.

You may also feel worried that the bullying could happen to you.  

When bullying isn’t stopped or challenged by anyone it can create an environment where bullying is accepted and where everyone feels powerless to stop it.


Know your rights

You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully. Bullying is is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts. Bullying can violate many of your human rights including:

  • Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence
  • Your right to education 
  • Your right to a safe work environment 


Is bullying illegal?

Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime if someone:

  • Is physically violent to you;
  • Threatens you;
  • Stalks you  (stalking includes following, watching, or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you);
  • Damages  or steal your stuff. 



I’m being bullied at school – what can I do about it?

Bullying is not OK and you don’t have to put up with it. You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, it is important that you tell someone what is happening.  


Will telling someone help?

Telling someone that you are being bullied is important. It can make you feel better because you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own. Telling somebody, even just your friends, can make you feel supported. It shares the problem, and allows you to get advice and help to stop the bullying.


Who can I tell?

  • Tell your friends – they can help you tell a teacher or your parents or just make you feel better;
  • Tell your parents – tell them who, what, when and where of what’s been happening;
  • Tell your school – we explain more about how to do this below;
  • Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 if you can’t talk to someone face to face. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. It’s free from all mobile phones, it doesn’t matter which provider you are with.


Telling your school about bullying.

All schools in Western Australia are required to have anti-bullying plans in place to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying.
You can ask your school about their anti-bullying plan (sometimes called Managing Student Behaviour plan) and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening. Your school should also make sure that students are not bullied or harassed and that it is a safe place for you to be.

Your school should teach students about bullying and create a climate where it is not attempted or tolerated. It should have a clear procedure for students to report bullying, and provide support for students who have been affected by bullying. If you are being bullied at school or outside school, tell someone about what is happening to you. Someone at your school must quickly respond to the situation.


If you’re being bullied at school, you can:

  1. Lodge a formal complaint with your school.
    The school has a legal duty to do something about the bullying if it is happening at school.  If telling someone is not enough to stop the bully’s behaviour, you can make a formal complaint to the school. Ask your parents or someone you trust to help make the complaint with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it.  You can make a complaint by arranging a meeting with your school principal and your parents.
  2. Make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of the Department of Education.
    If the school doesn’t do anything after you make a complaint, you can make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of Department of Education.  You can find your
    local education office here.
    Also check out
    this factsheet on how parents can talk to your school.
  3. Keep details
    It’s a good idea to record as many details as possible about situations in which you are being bullied. When making a complaint you will have to provide detailed information about the incidents and show why you think your school has failed to do to make the bullying stop. 



Reporting to police.

If someone has or has threatened to physically hurt you or sexually harass you, you can report this to the police. It is illegal for the bully to harass you and if your bully is over 10 years old , they could be charged with a crime.

If you have been threatened or physically harmed, you can report this to the police:

  • If the bully has physically harmed you, the maximum penalty is  5 years in prison;
  • If the bully has made threats to physically harm you, the maximum penalty is 3 years in prison;
  • If the bully has sexually assault you, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.

It’s very unlikely that a person under 18 would go to jail for hurting someone, but it is possible.

If your things have been damaged or stolen, you can also report to the police:

  • If the bully took away your things against your will, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
  • If the bully demands things from you so that they can take it away, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
  • If the bully damages your things, maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.


Getting Help

If you have been bullied or witnessed others been bullied and need help contact:

  • Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800) is a free and confidential, telephone counselling service for 5 to 25 year olds in Australia. http://www.kidshelp.com.au
  • Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors. http://www.lifeline.org.au
  • If you are being subjected to bullying and feel you are suffering from stress or anxiety, you can access support from a psychologist. They can assist with skills such as coping strategies, calming techniques and resilience building.


Source: Human Rights Commission 2018; lawsuff – know your rights

Help over the holiday period

The holiday season can be a stressful period, while intended to be a time of celebration, it can also be a time of sadness or loneliness for some.

You may feel that the holidays don’t meet your expectations, or you may miss people who you cannot be with over the holidays. It is normal to feel down occasionally and for a short period of time. If you feel your depression is more than just a normal short-term period of sadness please seek assistance.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, go immediately to your local emergency room.  

Helplines can provide you with immediate access to support and advice that is confidential, free and anonymous. The following link to our website contains:

  • mental health support lines,

  • kids and youth mental health support lines

  • alcohol and other drug support lines


For Emergency:

Mental Health Emergency Response Line …1300 555 788

Mead Center ………………………………………… 08 9391 2400

Police …………………………………………………..13 14 44

Additionally, some of the following strategies may help you manage feelings of sadness over the holidays:

1. Self-care
When everyone seems to be smiling around you, it can make it harder to acknowledge that you might not be feeling happy yourself. It is important to be honest with yourself, though. Trying to force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays is not healthy. Take some time out to clear your mind by going for a walk, listening to soothing music, reading a book or practising breathing exercises. Maintaining good habits like getting enough rest and making healthy eating choices can help to reduce stress.

2. Keep active
Maintaining our physical health is not only good for our bodies, it can also have a positive impact on our social, emotional and overall wellbeing. Regular exercise is seen as an active recovery tool for people with lived experience of anxiety and depression as it can help to promote a relaxed state of mind, boost self-esteem, and can help people connect with others through shared social experiences. Incorporate exercise into each day as part of a healthy routine by going for a walk in the park, doing a sport or activity you find fun and enjoyable.

3. Maintain connections
Living apart from family, complex relationships or the recent loss of someone can magnify feelings of loneliness or isolation during the holiday season. If you are feeling sad or down, reach out to a neighbour, family member, friend or community group for support and companionship. Volunteering your time with a group can also help broaden and strengthen your friendships.

4. Accept help
This requires strength in itself, as does offering help to others. What you might consider a small gesture can have a big impact on someone’s wellbeing. Likewise, it can also play a positive role in enhancing your own wellbeing. You might want to help someone cook a meal or just be there to listen. Reversely, if someone offers you help, don’t be afraid to accept it. It is also important that you seek professional help if you need it. There are crisis and information services operating 24/7 during the holiday period.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (sometimes called PTSD) is a form of anxiety disorder. The Australian prevalence rates for PTSD are 4.4% (12 month) and 7.2% (lifetime)

Some people develop this condition after they have experienced a traumatic event. This event might be a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or a natural disaster such as a bushfire or a flood. Strong reactions such as fear, horror, anger, sadness and hopelessness are natural after events like these, of course. In most cases, these feelings will pass after the normal working-through of emotions and talking things over in your own time with family, friends or colleagues.

When these feelings are intensely distressing and go on for more than four weeks, however, it is important to ask for help from a doctor or other health professional, as they may be symptoms of a more persistent condition such as PTSD. About 25% of people who are exposed to traumatic events develop PTSD. As well as being very upsetting, the symptoms interfere with the person’s ability to carry on their everyday life, work and relationships. Treatment helps deal with the symptoms so that people are able to get on with their life again.


What are the symptoms?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is identified by three main groups of symptoms:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event through intrusive memories or nightmares. As well as strong emotions, there may be physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic attacks.
  • Feeling emotionally numb and avoiding situations that are reminders of the trauma. Avoiding possible reminders of the trauma can cause someone to lose interest in day-to-day activities and become detached from friends and family. Some people experience ‘dissociation’ – a feeling of watching from a distance as events unfold.
  • Feeling anxious and ‘jumpy’ for no reason. Heightened vigilance can mean the affected person is constantly on the lookout for danger, possibly leading to irritability and a lack of concentration.

Other indicators of PTSD may include:


  • Panic attacks
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Uncontrollable rages
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Self mutilation
  • Somatic pain
  • Terror
  • Addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex)
  • Overreaction to minor stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sense of defilement or stigma
  • Nightmares
  • State of fight or flight
  • Extreme mood swings
  • High risk behaviours
  • Shame, guilt and blame

Someone who has experienced a traumatic event may sometimes feel that they have ‘got over’ it, until they are confronted with a reminder that triggers symptoms again. Those affected may also develop other anxiety disorders (such as phobias or social anxiety), depression, or problems with alcohol and drug use. These conditions can be present at the same time as the PTSD, and require additional treatment.


Symptom Checklist

Have you experienced or seen something that involved death, injury, torture or abuse and felt very scared or helpless?

Have you then experienced any of the following:

  • upsetting memories, flashbacks or dreams of the event?
  • feeling physically and psychologically distressed when something reminds you of the event

If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also experienced at least two of the following:

  • had trouble remembering important parts of the event
  • had very negative beliefs about yourself, others or the world
  • persistently blamed yourself or others for what happened
  • persistently felt negative, angry, guilty or ashamed
  • felt less interested in doing things you used to enjoy
  • feeling cut off from others
  • had trouble feeling positive emotions (e.g. love or excitement)

And have you experienced at least two of the following:

  • had difficulties sleeping (e.g. had bad dreams, or found it hard to fall or stay asleep)
  • felt easily angered or irritated
  • engaged in reckless or self-destructive behaviour
  • had trouble concentrating
  • felt on guard or vigilant
  • been easily startled?

If all these things have been happening for a month or more, you may be experiencing post traumatic stress disorder.


How common is PTSD and who experiences it

Anyone can develop PTSD following a traumatic event, but people are at greater risk if the event involved deliberate harm such as physical or sexual assault or they have had repeated traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse or living in a war zone. Apart from the event itself, risk factors for developing PTSD include a past history of trauma or previous mental health problems, as well as ongoing stressful life events after the trauma and an absence of social supports.

Around 12 per cent of Australians will experience PTSD in their lifetime. Serious accidents are one of the leading causes of PTSD in Australia.1

If you feel very distressed at any time after a traumatic event, talking to your doctor or other health professional is a good first step. If you experience symptoms of PTSD that persist beyond two weeks, a doctor or a mental health professional may recommend starting treatment for PTSD.


What are the treatments?

Treatment usually involves psychological (talking) therapy with the person directly affected (and sometimes their family) by a qualified health professional such as a doctor or psychologist. The sooner someone is diagnosed and receives treatment, the more likely it is they will recover sooner. With help, a person can learn to manage their response in unavoidable situations that previously would have triggered a flashback. Medication can also be helpful for a time. With appropriate treatment and support people with PTSD are able to recover and get on with their lives.


Tips on managing psychological trauma

There are several things you can do to look after yourself and promote recovery from a traumatic event or situation. The following points provide some general advice.

  • Recognise that you have been through a distressing experience and give yourself permission to experience some reaction to it. Don’t be angry with yourself for being upset.
  • Remind yourself that you are not abnormal and that you can and are coping.
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol or other drugs to cope.
  • Avoid making any major decisions or big life changes.
  • Do not try to block out thoughts of what has happened. Gradually confronting what has happened will assist in coming to terms with the traumatic experience.
  • Don’t ‘bottle up’ your feelings – share your experiences with others when opportunities arise. This may feel uncomfortable at times, but talking to understanding people that you trust is helpful in dealing with trauma.
  • Try to maintain a normal routine. Keep busy and structure your day.
  • Make sure you do not unnecessarily avoid certain activities or places.
  • Allow yourself time to rest if you are feeling tired, and remember that regular exercise is important.
  • Let your friends and family know of your needs. Help them to help you by letting them know when you are tired, need time out, or need a chance to talk or just be with someone.
  • Make time to practise relaxation. You can use a formal technique such as progressive muscle relaxation, or just make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity such as gardening or listening to music. This will help your body and nervous system to settle and readjust.
  • If the trauma that you experience stirs up other memories or feelings from a past unrelated stressful occurrence, or even childhood experiences, try not to let the memories all blur together. Keep the memories separate and deal with them separately.
  • Express your feelings as they arise. Whether you discuss them with someone else or write them down in a diary, expressing feelings in some way often helps the healing process.

Sourced: Sane, APS, Beyondblue, RACGP, Mindhealthconnect


Do you think you may be suffering from PTSD?

If you feel you may be suffering from PTSD, seek the advice of an experienced mental health professional. Visit your GP and discuss your concerns, book a longer appointment so there is time to explain your issues and how you are feeling.

Your GP may write a referral to a psychologist, which may entitle you to access Medicare rebates under the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care Rebate scheme.

Remember your Doctor and psychologist are there to help,and will not judge.

To book an appointment at Lifepath Psychology, or request further information about our services, please feel free call 6496 0039 and one of our friendly staff will more than happy to assist.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is an illness affecting the normal functioning of the brain.

It is one of a group of disorders known as psychosis. Schizophrenia affects people’s thoughts, perceptions and behaviour and interferes with their ability to function at work, school or relate to other people.

People affected by schizophrenia have one ‘personality’ not a ‘split personality’, which is a common misunderstanding of the illness.

Some people do recover completely and, with time, most find their symptoms improve. However, for many, it is a prolonged illness which can involve years of distressing symptoms and disability.


What are the symptoms?

Without treatment people with schizophrenia experience persistent symptoms called psychosis. These include some or all of the following:

  • Confused thinking
    When acutely ill, people with psychotic symptoms experience disordered thinking. The everyday thoughts that let us live our daily lives become confused and don’t join up properly.
  • Delusions
    A delusion is a false belief held by a person which is not held by others of the same cultural background.
  • Hallucinations
    The person sees, hears, feels, smells or tastes something that is not actually there. The hallucination is often of disembodied voices which no one else can hear.
  • Abnormal motor behaviour
    Each person may experience this symptom differently. Some people may become easily agitated while others may display childlike behaviour. Others again may find it difficult to manage the normal tasks of day-to-day life. Abnormal motor behaviour can also include catatonic behaviour which is marked by a withdrawal from one’s environment. This can include a complete lack of talking and movement.
  • Negative symptoms
    While less obvious, these symptoms are often more persistent and debilitating than the symptoms outlined above. Negative symptoms include being less able to experience pleasure or recall pleasurable events, and becoming less emotionally expressive.



What are the early signs that someone may be developing Schizophrenia?

There are sometimes early signs that ‘something isn’t quite right’ before a person develops a Psychosis. When these are identified, early assessment and diagnosis mean the person gets treatment and help earlier too, and this can improve the outlook when someone has Schizophrenia.

Early signs may include changes in a person’s behaviour, such as:

  • withdrawing completely from family, friends and workmates. (Although it’s normal for teenagers to withdraw from their families sometimes, it’s unusual for them to withdraw from friends.)
  • being afraid to leave the house, even in daylight
  • not sleeping well, sleeping during the day and staying awake at night, sometimes pacing around
  • becoming very preoccupied with a particular theme, for example – death, religion or politics
  • neglecting appearance, personal hygiene, or neglecting parenting or housework
  • deteriorating performance at school or work
  • difficulty concentrating, following conversations or remembering things
  • talking or writing about things that don’t make sense
  • being extremely anxious, panicky or depressed, or suicidal
  • believing that they have special powers or that they are important religious or political leaders, or scientists, when they’re not
  • difficulty with expressing emotion, appearing emotionally ‘flat’
  • fearing – without reason – that others are plotting against them, spying on them or following them
  • believing they’re being harmed or influenced to do things against their will – by television, radio, aliens or the devil, for instance
  • believing their thoughts are being interfered with, or that they can influence other people’s thoughts.


What causes Schizophrenia?

It’s thought that schizophrenia is caused by complex changes in brain functioning but the causes are not yet fully understood. There is no single cause but it usually develops in people who have a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors.

  • Genetics
    Genes are the most important risk factor for schizophrenia. People with a parent or sibling with schizophrenia have a 10 per cent chance of developing it (which means 90 percent do not develop it) whereas in the general population just 1 per cent have a chance of developing it. There is no single gene involved; rather, a number of genes may combine to increase the risk.
  • Environmental factors
    Even where there is a genetic risk, most people do not develop schizophrenia. It can, however, be triggered by other issues such as:
  • Pregnancy and birth factors: malnutrition, serious infections in pregnancy or birth complications can increase the risk of a child developing schizophrenia later in life.
  • Drug abuse: in particular, the use of cannabis, amphetamines or hallucinogens.
  • Trauma and stress: people who have experienced violence, traumatic events or severe stress have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Place or season of birth or family income can also influence the risk.


How many people develop Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia affects about one out of 100 people, and the symptoms usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is generally a long-term illness and can cause serious disability when left untreated.


How is Schizophrenia treated?

The good news is that schizophrenia is more treatable than ever before. Many people recover completely whereas others might have episodes of schizophrenia that come and go. There are a number of different treatments to help people manage their symptoms and help them to flourish in all areas of life.

Treatment should be under the care of a psychiatrist, but may involve a team of different health professionals including a doctor and psychologist. Treatments are tailored according to the needs of the individual.

Research has shown that early treatment can be more effective, before the illness has time to cause damage.

  • Medication
    Certain medications help the brain to restore its usual chemical balance. This can help to reduce positive symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions.
  • Psychological treatments
    Psychological treatments can help with some of the life impacts associated with schizophrenia. Family interventions can play a valuable role in treatment and have been shown to help reduce the chance of relapse. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is increasingly used for people with schizophrenia and there is evidence to suggest it can reduce positive symptoms.
  • Early intervention
    Treating psychosis early can help prevent future episodes and the development of a chronic disorder. It is increasingly becoming available to young people who are displaying early signs of psychosis.
  • Community support programs
    This support should include information, accommodation, help with finding suitable work, training and education, psychosocial rehabilitation and mutual support groups. Understanding and acceptance by the community is also very important.
  • Hospital treatment
    Some people with schizophrenia need to be treated in hospital at times. A hospital admission can help when symptoms are out of control or the person is not managing at home. Although the majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent, severe symptoms can cause some people to have thoughts of suicide or harming others. If you think someone may be at risk of suicide or violence, call triple zero (000).


Schizophrenia is now more treatable than ever before, and getting help as early as possible can improve the outcome.

It’s important to get professional help to manage schizophrenia. If you or someone you know seems to be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your doctor as soon as possible. Most people require medication as the major part of treatment, but it’s important to get support in other areas too. Psychological therapy, rehabilitation and family therapy can help people to cope with their symptoms and rebuild their lives.


How family and friends can help

If someone you know has Schizophrenia learn as much about the illness as you can, find out what services and support groups are available in your area.

Encourage the person to see a doctor as soon as possible if they showing early warning signs of becoming ill. For more information the following link to Sane Australia has a wealth of information.

Source: APS, ReachOut, Mindhealthconnect, Sane

What are Bipolar Disorders

It is estimated that the global prevalence of bipolar disorder is between 1 and 2% and has been said to be as high as 5% and, according to the World Health Organization, is the 6th leading case of disability in the world.



What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe and different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.

People with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimes they feel very happy and “up,” and are much more energetic and active than usual. This is called a manic episode. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder feel very sad and “down,” have low energy, and are much less active. This is called depression or a depressive episode.

Most people who have episodes of mania and depression experience normal moods in between. They are able to live their lives productively and manage home and work commitments. It is when moods become extreme and interfere with a person’s life that assessment and treatment for mental illness becomes necessary.


Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs everyone goes through. The mood swings are more extreme than that and are accompanied by changes in sleep, energy level, and the ability to think clearly. Bipolar symptoms are so strong that they can damage relationships and make it hard to go to school or keep a job. They can also be dangerous. Some people with bipolar disorder try to hurt themselves or attempt suicide.

People with bipolar disorder can get treatment. With help, they can get better and lead successful lives.


There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behaviour (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

  • Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.


Who develops bipolar disorder?
Anyone can develop bipolar disorder. It often starts in a person’s late teen or early adult years. But children and older adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.


Why does someone develop bipolar disorder?
Doctors do not know what causes bipolar disorder, but several things may contribute to the illness. Family genes may be one factor because bipolar disorder sometimes runs in families. However, it is important to know that just because someone in your family has bipolar disorder, it does not mean other members of the family will have it as well. Another factor that may lead to bipolar disorder is the brain structure or the brain function of the person with the disorder. Scientists are finding out more about the disorder by studying it. This research may help doctors do a better job of treating people. Also, this research may help doctors to predict whether a person will get bipolar disorder. One day, doctors may be able to prevent the illness in some people.


What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
Bipolar “mood episodes” include unusual mood changes along with unusual sleep habits, activity levels, thoughts, or behavior. People may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two or sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.

Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are strong and happen along with extreme changes in behavior and energy levels.


People having a manic episode may:

  • Feel very “up” or “high”
  • Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Become more active than usual
  • Talk really fast about a lot of different things
  • Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
  • Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
  • Think they can do a lot of things at once
  • Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex


People having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel very “down” or sad
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel like they can’t enjoy anything
  • Feel worried and empty
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Forget things a lot
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Feel tired or “slowed down”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Think about death or suicide


Can someone have bipolar disorder along with other problems?
Yes. Sometimes people having very strong mood episodes may have psychotic symptoms. Psychosis affects thoughts and emotions as well as a person’s ability to know what is real and what is not. People with mania and psychotic symptoms may believe they are rich and famous, or have special powers. People with depression and psychotic symptoms may believe they have committed a crime, they have lost all of their money, or that their lives are ruined in some other way.

Sometimes behaviour problems go along with mood episodes. A person may drink too much or take drugs. Some people take a lot of risks, like spending too much money or having reckless sex. These problems can damage lives and hurt relationships. Some people with bipolar disorder have trouble keeping a job or doing well in school.


Is bipolar disorder easy to diagnose?
No. Some people have bipolar disorder for years before the illness is diagnosed. This is because bipolar symptoms may seem like several different problems. Family and friends may notice the symptoms but not realize they are part of a bigger problem. A doctor may think the person has a different illness, like schizophrenia or depression.

People with bipolar disorder often have other health problems as well. This may make it hard for doctors to recognize the bipolar disorder. Examples of other illnesses include substance abuse, anxiety disorders, thyroid disease, heart disease, and obesity.


Bipolar disorder is a term used to describe a group of mental health problems. It’s important to seek help from a highly qualified mental health professional so you have a good understanding of your symptoms and type of bipolar disorder.



How is bipolar disorder treated?
Right now, there is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment can help control symptoms. Most people can get help for mood changes and behavior problems. Steady, dependable treatment works better than treatment that starts and stops. Treatment options include:

  1. Medication. There are several types of medication that can help. People respond to medications in different ways, so the type of medication depends on the patient. Sometimes a person needs to try different medications to see which works best.
    Medications can cause side effects.
    Patients should always tell their doctors about these problems. Also, patients should not stop taking a medication without a doctor’s help. Stopping medication suddenly can be dangerous, and it can make bipolar symptoms worse.
  2. Therapy. Different kinds of psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, can help people with bipolar disorder. Therapy can help them change their behaviour and manage their lives. It can also help patients get along better with family and friends. Sometimes therapy includes family members.
  3. Other treatments. Some people do not get better with medication and therapy. These people may try electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. This is sometimes called “shock” therapy. ECT provides a quick electric current that can sometimes correct problems in the brain.


How can I help myself if I have bipolar disorder?
You can help yourself by getting treatment and sticking with it. Recovery takes time, and it’s not easy. But treatment is the best way to start feeling better. Here are some tips:

  • Talk with your doctor about your treatment.
  • Stay on your medication.
  • Keep a routine for eating and sleeping.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Learn to recognize your mood swings.
  • Ask a friend or relative to help you stick with your treatment.
  • Be patient with yourself. Improvement takes time.


How can I help someone I know with bipolar disorder?
Help your friend or relative see a doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make the appointment and go to the doctor together. Here are some helpful things you can do:

  • Be patient.
  • Encourage your friend or relative to talk, and listen carefully.
  • Be understanding about mood swings.
  • Include your friend or relative in fun activities.
  • Remind the person that getting better is possible with the right treatment.


How does bipolar disorder affect friends and family?
When a friend or relative has bipolar disorder, it affects you too. Taking care of someone with bipolar disorder can be stressful. You have to cope with the mood swings and sometimes other problems, such as drinking too much. Sometimes the stress can strain your relationships with other people. Caregivers can miss work or lose free time.

If you are taking care of someone with bipolar disorder, take care of yourself too. Find someone you can talk to about your feelings. Talk with the doctor about support groups for caregivers. If you keep your stress level down, you will do a better job, and it might help your loved one stick to his or her treatment.

(Information sourced NIMH, reachout, Dep Health)



If you think you may have bipolar disorder, it’s really worth visiting your GP for a consultation. Bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose but it is able to be treated and managing it will be much easier if you get professional advice. A diagnosis may take a while as your GP will need to monitor your mood over a period of time, but once diagnosed your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan which suits your personal circumstances and experience.

In most situations you’ll be referred to a psychologist, counsellor or other mental health professional to help you manage day to day life. They’ll provide helpful strategies and psychological therapies.

Are You Worried About Someone Else’s Drug Problem?

Caring for a partner, family member or friend who has a drug and/or alcohol abuse problem can leave you feeling isolated and alone. It may be hard to talk to others about your situation, particularly if they haven’t had the same experience as you.

It’s difficult to accept, but often we make someone else’s problem our own. This can be a result of living life to “fix” someone else’s drug problem, rather than working out which are their problems and which are our own.

We tell ourselves all sorts of things to avoid starting a sometimes painful process of concentrating on our own problems rather than someone else’s.

  • “Maybe I’m only imagining it…”
  • “It will get better if I’m patient…”
  • “Maybe it’s not as bad as I think…”
  • “I can’t do anything to upset him/her – it’ll only make their problem worse…”
  • “Maybe I can live with it…”

In the same way as the person dependent on alcohol or another drug will need to face their behaviour if they want to get off the drug they’re using, in the end, you have to face what is happening to you.

But it is possible for you to improve your life, whether or not they decide to change their behaviour.



How to tell the difference between your problems and theirs

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whose problems are worse. The following check-list may help you tell the difference between your problems and theirs:

  • Do you worry about how much they use?
  • Do you lie about their drinking and drug use?
  • Do they get angry if you try to discuss their drinking or drug use?
  • Do you complain about how much time or money they spend on their alcohol or other drugs?
  • Have you been hurt or embarrassed by their behaviour when they’re drunk or stoned?
  • Do you resent doing jobs around the house that you think are their responsibility?
  • Are you scared or nervous about their behaviour a lot of the time?
  • Do you act or make decisions on the basis of what you think is best for them, rather than listening to your own feelings?
  • Have you lied or covered up for them because of their drinking or drug use?
  • Do you cover up your feelings by pretending that you don’t care about them or their drug use?
  • Are you afraid of the future?
  • Do you sometimes wish they or you were dead?
  • Do you lose your temper a lot?
  • Do you believe no one could possibly understand how you feel?
  • Have you ever thought of calling the police because of their drinking or drug use?
  • Have you threatened to leave because of their drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever left because of their drinking or drug use?
  • Do you feel nobody really loves you or cares about what happens to you?
  • Do you sometimes think that you are going crazy?
  • Do you ever change your plans because you’re scared of what they might do?
  • Have you ever play-acted to keep everything calm?

If you answered ‘yes’ to three or more of these questions, then you have problems which are probably affecting your life. You may benefit from talking to a psychologist who can help you to understand the way you’re feeling.



The more you worry…the less they care

It may seem hard to believe, but it is quite often the very people who take on someone else’s drug and alcohol problem who unintentionally encourage the very behaviour that they want to change.

The following check-list lists some of the ways in which families reinforce destructive attitudes and behaviour:

  • Accepting unacceptable behaviour
  • Worrying about what the neighbours will think
  • Using trial and error
  • Hoping it will go away
  • Thinking it’s self inflicted
  • Believing they are to blame
  • Thinking it’s loyalty to watch someone you love slowly drink themselves to death
  • Keeping it a secret
  • Keeping a stiff upper lip
  • Feeling powerless to change
  • Thinking this is just my lot in life
  • Feeling guilty about asking for help
  • Feeling a failure by asking for help
  • Staying to the bitter end
  • Paying for their mistakes – financially, emotionally, and socially
  • Doing their jobs for them
  • Covering up and lying for them
  • Being angry, critical, nagging, hostile, sullen, speechless
  • Being sugary sweet, placating, always compliant, always “good” and agreeable
  • Feeling responsible for other’s behaviour
  • We have to learn to understand how and why we encourage destructive behaviours which can ruin our lives and relationships.



So what can I do?

When someone you love is suffering from addiction, or trying to succeed in addiction recovery, it is normal to want to help. But in order to properly help the addict, you must first take care of yourself.

When someone you love is suffering from a drug addiction or going through recovery you want to help in any way possible. However, if you are not caring for your own physical and emotional needs it is very difficult to help someone else.

The following tips can help you care for yourself while trying to care for someone you love who is dealing with addiction as well as recognising the difference between ‘helping’ and ‘enabling,’ so that you and the drug addict you love have the greatest chance of being and getting well.



Tips for Taking Care of Yourself when you Love a Drug Addict

The agony faced by those who care for an addict is great. You may worry each day that your loved one will end up either in jail or dead. Unfortunately, you have no control over the life or choices of your loved one. You can, however, choose how you care for your own life.

  • Eat well
    It can be easy to neglect healthy eating habits, but caring for yourself means caring for your body. Avoid too many high-fat and sugary foods which will slow you down and compromise your overall health. Make sure you are getting the nutrients you need by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Sleep well
    It can be difficult to sleep well when you are worrying about the drug addict in your life. However, sleep is an important aspect of physical health and mental well-being so make getting enough sleep a priority.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is important for everyone, but can be particularly helpful for dealing with stress — which anyone who loves a drug addict has a lot of.
  • Do something you love
    Doing something you love will help you find balance in your life and bring joy into difficult times. Make a point to designate days or times that are solely for you to do anything that you enjoy.
  • Understand that self-care is not selfish
    Too many people get these two ideas confused and mistakenly believe that by putting their own needs first they are being selfish. Taking care of your physical and mental health by spending time doing things you love and prioritising your eating, exercise, and sleep habits is not selfish and is in fact necessary if you want to have the energy to help someone else.
  • Learn about addiction
    Educating yourself about addiction and recovery will allow you to deal more compassionately and effectively with the drug addict in your life, which in turn will lower your level of stress.
  • Avoid self blame
    You cannot control another person’s decisions. Nor can you force them to change. You did not cause the addiction, and blaming yourself will only hinder both your own and the addict’s ability to be well.
  • Recognise and stop enabling behaviours
    This may be the most difficult task that those who want to help and care for a drug addict face. It can be very difficult to recognise that much of what you are doing to ‘help’ an addict is actually enabling their addiction. As hard as it can be to see your loved one struggle, giving them money, letting them live with you while they are still using, and making excuses for their behaviour are all actions that allow the addiction to continue and shield the addict from facing the consequences of their addiction. It will feel counter-intuitive, but to help an addict you must recognise and stop all enabling behaviours.
  • Ask for help
    The best thing you can do to help yourself if you love a drug addict is to reach out for support. Seek your own personal counselling, join a support group
    Although it can feel very lonely, you are not alone in your pain and there are many people who can help you learn how to best help an addict you love.


There are millions of people worldwide who have successfully recovered from an addiction. Never give up hope and always let the drug addicted person in your life know that you love them and believe in them and you are willing to help them get into treatment, or actively work on recovery when they are ready.

Information sourced Health Direct, NIDA, reachout,


Lifepath Psychology practitioners are experienced in all facets of issues relating to drug and alcohol addictions – from family support to communication facilitation and addiction recovery counselling therapy.

To book an appointment at Lifepath Psychology, or request further information about our services, please feel free to email your query to admin@lifepathpsychology.com.au or call 6496 0039 and one of our friendly staff will more than happy to assist.


If you feel you may be suffering from anxiety or depression due to your loved ones addiction, seek the advice of an experienced mental health professional. Visit your GP and discuss your concerns, book a longer appointment so there is time to explain your issues and how you are feeling.

Your GP may write a referral to a psychologist, which may entitle you to access Medicare rebates under the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care Rebate scheme.

If your loved one is ready to seek help for their addiction they can access Medicare rebates under the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care Rebate scheme. Their GP will write a referral to a psychologist.

Understanding and Managing Depression

What is depression?

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness, disappointment, or ‘the blues’ from time to time. Depression however refers to a range of mood and other symptoms that are more intense, pervasive and long-lasting, are distressing to the person, and interfere with their day-to-day life and relationships.


Signs and symptoms

The key symptoms of depression include one or both of the following:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or lowered mood that lasts for most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable, like going out, seeing friends, or pursuing interests and hobbies.


These symptoms are experienced persistently for at least two weeks, along with several other symptoms over the same period. These vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Significant changes in appetite and/or weight in the absence of dieting
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Sluggishness
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness, or excessive guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Thoughts of suicide or a feeling that life is not worth living.


What causes depression

There is no one cause for depression. In some individuals, stressful life events such as the loss of a job, long-term unemployment, physical health issues, family problems, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a close relationship might trigger depression. For other people, there is no obvious cause.

Some factors that might place a person at a higher risk of developing depression include:

  • Family history: Having a close relative with depression can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition. This doesn’t mean that depression is inevitable – other factors increase or decrease a person’s risk.
  • Social factors: Some people who experience neglect or abuse during childhood might be more likely to develop depression as adults.
  • Personal psychological factors: People who tend to dwell on negative events, worry excessively, or attend more to negative information about themselves, the world or the future are more prone to depression.
  • Neurochemistry: Changes in the levels or activity of certain chemicals in the brain like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine play a role in depression, though the specific processes are not fully understood.


Evidence-based psychological interventions

There are many effective psychological treatments for depression. Certain specialised forms of psychological intervention tend to be more effective than general supportive counselling, as they address current issues and symptoms and also aim to reduce the likelihood of having future episodes of depression.

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
    Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) focuses on unhelpful thoughts about the self, others, and the future which may contribute to depression. The goal of this type of therapy is to identify, examine, and modify these unhelpful thoughts and the behaviours that follow, and increase behaviours that might improve mood and quality of life. This includes ensuring a balance of enjoyable activities throughout each day, and a range of activities that give the individual a sense of achievement, Problem-solving, to help address possible causes of stress and lowered mood, is also an important component.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
    Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) involves addressing problems in the person’s relationships and expectations about others that might be contributing to the symptoms of depression. The aims of this type of therapy include helping the individual to find new ways to develop and nurture relationships, resolve conflicts with others, express emotions and communicate more effectively, adapt to life-role changes, and improve social support networks.
  • Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP)
    Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) can help the person to become more aware and reflective of their own feelings, desires, motivations and thoughts. The goals of this therapy are to identify and change unhelpful defences which may be getting in the way of a healthy life, decrease vulnerability to depression, and build resilience.


How a psychologist can help

The psychologist will ask some questions about the individual’s history, circumstances, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They might also use questionnaires to gather more information. Together, the client and psychologist work towards an understanding of factors that might be contributing to the person’s difficulties. A treatment plan is then developed between the client and the psychologist. The psychologist might use CBT, IPT, STPP, or other psychological strategies such as mindfulness and relaxation to help in the client’s recovery.


Other professionals who might be involved

A medical review with a GP is often recommended to help rule out whether a medical condition might account for the symptoms of depression. Where medication might be of benefit, a review with a GP or psychiatrist might be suggested.

Exercise and diet can be important in the treatment of depression, so a nutritionist, dietician or exercise physiologist might also be consulted.
(Article sourced from Australian Psychological Society 2016)


Do you think you may be suffering from depression?

If you feel you may be suffering from depression seek the advice of an experienced mental health professional. Visit your GP and discuss your concerns, book a longer appointment so there is time to explain your issues and how you are feeling.

Your GP may write a referral to a psychologist, which may entitle you to access Medicare rebates under the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care Rebate scheme.

Remember your Doctor and psychologist are there to help,and will not judge.

If you would like to see a psychologist at Lifepath Psychology just ask your GP to write a referral letter and attach your Mental Healthcare Plan. You will need to bring this referral letter and Mental Healthcare Plan with you to your first appointment to receive the Medicare rebate.

To book an appointment at Lifepath Psychology, or request further information about our services, please feel free to email your query to admin@lifepathpsychology.com.au or call 6496 0039 and one of our friendly staff will more than happy to assist.

Understanding and Managing Anxiety

 What is anxiety?

Anxiety refers to feelings of worry, nervousness, or a sense of apprehension, typically about an upcoming event where the outcome is uncertain, or where the person feels he or she might not be up to the task. Anxiety is commonly experienced in high pressure situations, for example, prior to a making a speech or sitting an exam. Feelings of anxiety can also arise following a stressful event, like an accident where the person is left feeling shaken. Anxious feelings are usually accompanied by physical sensations such as a churning stomach, light headedness, and a racing heart.


Signs and symptoms

Although the experience of anxiety will vary from person to person, feeling stressed, worried, and having anxious thoughts are common symptoms. Other common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Avoidance behaviour
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling light-headed or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Sweating.


Anxiety disorders

While anxiety is considered a natural reaction to a stressful situation, for some people anxious thoughts, feelings, or physical symptoms can become severe and upsetting, interfering with their ability to go about their daily lives.Where symptoms of anxiety occur frequently, occur over a period of time, and interfere with daily life, it is typically considered an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorders diagnosed in Australia. There are a number of different types of anxiety disorder, including:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder  (GAD)
    GAD is characterised by persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work, family or health. This worry is difficult to control and interferes the person’s day-to-day life and relationships.

  • Specific phobia
    People with a specific phobia experience extreme anxiety and fear of particular objects or situations. Common phobias include fear of flying, fear of spiders and other animals, and fear of injections.

  • Panic Disorder
    Panic Disorder is characterised by the experience of repeat panic attacks – sudden surges of overwhelming fear and anxiety and physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and breathlessness.

  • Agoraphobia
    Agoraphobia involves intense anxiety following exposure to, or anticipation of, a variety of situations such as public transportation, open spaces, crowds, or being outside of the home alone.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    Individuals with OCD have recurring, persistent, and distressing thoughts, images or impulses, known as obsessions (e.g. a fear of catching germs), or feel compelled to carry out certain repetitive behaviours, rituals, or mental acts, known as compulsions (e.g. hand-washing). These thoughts and acts can take over a person’s life and while people with OCD usually know that their obsessions and compulsions are an over-reaction, they are unable to stop them.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder
    In social anxiety disorder the person has severe anxiety about being criticised or negatively evaluated by others. This leads to the person avoiding social events and other public situations for fear of doing something that leads to embarrassment or humiliation.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    PTSD refers to a set of symptoms that can occur after exposure to a frightening and traumatic event. Symptoms include a sense of reliving the traumatic event (through ‘flashbacks’ or nightmares), avoidance of places, people, or activities which remind the person of the event, feeling numb or detached from others, having negative thoughts about oneself and the world, feeling irritable, angry, or wound up, and having trouble sleeping.



What causes anxiety disorders?

Whilst there is no single known cause of anxiety disorders, there are a number of risk factors or triggers that may contribute. These differ between the different anxiety disorders too. In general, the following factors may play a role:

  • Genes:
    certain anxiety disorders appear to have a genetic component, with some anxiety disorders running in families.
  • Physical health:
    Poor physical health can increase a person’s vulnerability to developing symptoms of anxiety.
  • Thinking style:
    patterns of thinking characterised by anticipating the worst, persistent negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and unhelpful coping strategies (e.g., avoidance) are linked to problem anxiety.
  • Stress:
    stressful events such as a marriage breakdown, work or school deadlines, financial hardship can act as a trigger for anxiety.


How a psychologist can help

Through discussion with the client and the possible use of questionnaires, the psychologist develops an understanding of the potential factors that might be contributing to the client’s anxiety. A treatment plan is then developed by the psychologist together with the person. For anxiety disorders, this can involve CBT, mindfulness, exposure therapy, relaxation and other helpful strategies.

The psychologist might also assist the person to address any lifestyle factors which may increase his or her capacity to better manage difficulties, and reduce symptoms of anxiety. They may also suggest involving a supportive family member or friend to assist in the understanding of the person’s situation and to support treatment.

(Article by Australian Psychological Society 2016)


Do you think you may be suffering from anxiety?

If you feel you may be suffering from anxiety, seek the advice of an experienced mental health professional. Visit your GP and discuss your concerns, book a longer appointment so there is time to explain your issues and how you are feeling.

Your GP may write a referral to a psychologist, which may entitle you to access Medicare rebates under the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care Rebate scheme.

Remember your Doctor and psychologist are there to help,and will not judge.

To book an appointment at Lifepath Psychology, or request further information about our services, please feel free to email your query to admin@lifepathpsychology.com.au or call 6496 0039 and one of our friendly staff will more than happy to assist.

Understanding and Managing Stress

What is stress?

Stress is often described as a feeling of being overloaded, wound-up tight, tense and worried. We all experience stress at times. It can sometimes help to motivate us to get a task finished, or perform well. But stress can also be harmful if we become over-stressed and it interferes with our ability to get on with our normal life for too long.



What are the signs of stress?

When we face a stressful event, our bodies respond by activating the nervous system and releasing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones cause physical changes in the body which help us to react quickly and effectively to get through the stressful situation. This is sometimes called the ‘fight or flight’ response. The hormones increase our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, metabolism and muscle tension. Our pupils dilate and our perspiration rate increases. While these physical changes help us try to meet the challenges of the stressful situation, they can cause other physical or psychological symptoms if the stress is ongoing and the physical changes don’t settle down. These symptoms can include:

  • Headaches, other aches and pains
  • Sleep disturbance, insomnia
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhoea
  • Anxiety
  • Anger, irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • Feeling moody, tearful
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Heart disease


When to seek professional help

If high levels of stress continue for a long period of time, or are interfering with you enjoying a healthy life, it is advisable to seek professional help. A mental health professional, like a psychologist, can help you identify behaviours and situations that are contributing to high stress, and help you to make changes to the things that are within your control. Seeking help can be one way to manage your stress effectively.


Learning to handle stress in healthy ways is very important. Fortunately, it is easy to learn simple techniques that help. These include recognising and changing the behaviours that contribute to stress, as well as techniques for reducing stress once it has occurred. The following tips from the APS can help you look after your mind and body, and reduce stress and its impact on your health.


Identify warning signs

It is very helpful to be able to identify early warning signs in your body that tell you when you are getting stressed. These vary from person to person, but might include things like tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, or feeling irritable and short tempered.


Identify triggers

There are often known triggers which raise our stress levels and make it more difficult for us to manage. If you know what the likely triggers are, you can aim to anticipate them and practise

calming yourself down beforehand, or even find ways of removing the trigger. Triggers might include late nights, deadlines, seeing particular people, hunger or over-tired children.


Establish routines

Having predictable rhythms and routines in your day, or over a week, can be very calming and reassuring, and can help you to manage your stress. Routines can include:

Regular times for exercise and relaxation

Regular meal times, waking and bedtimes

Planning ahead to do particular jobs on set days of

the week.


Spend time with people who care

Spending time with people you care about, and who care about you, is an important part of managing ongoing stress in your life.

  • Spend time with friends and family, especially those you find uplifting rather than people who place demands on you.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with others when opportunities arise. Don’t ‘bottle up’ your feelings.


Look after your health

  • Make sure you are eating healthy food and getting regular exercise.
  • Take time to do activities you find calming or uplifting, such as listening to music, walking or dancing.
  • Avoid using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope.


Notice your self-talk

When we are stressed we sometimes say tings in our head, over and over, that just add to our stress. This unhelpful self-talk might include things like: ‘I can’t cope’, or ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I’m so tired’, or ‘It’s not fair’. While we might think that these are fairly truthful descriptions of what’s going on, they are not always helpful to repeat, and can even make you feel worse.

  • Notice when you are using unhelpful self-talk, and instead try saying soothing, calming things to yourself to reduce your levels of stress. Try more helpful self-talk like ‘I’m coping well given what’s on my plate’, or ‘Calm down’, or ‘Breathe easy’.
  • Keeping things in perspective is also important. When we are stressed, it’s easy to see things as worse than they really are. Try self-talk such as ‘This is not the end of the world’ or ‘In the overall scheme of things, this doesn’t matter so much’.


Practise relaxation

Make time to practise relaxation. This will help your body and nervous system to settle and readjust. Consider trying some of the following things:

  • Learn a formal technique such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga.
  • Make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity such as gardening or listening to music.
  • Plan things to do each day that you look forward to and which give you a sense of pleasure, like reading a book

(Article by Australian Psychological Society 2012)




Is Your Workplace Mentaly Healthy

Did you know Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness absence and long term work incapacity in the developed world? A report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in March 2014 estimates that the cost to Australian business is approximately $10.9 billion per year.
Mental health conditions come at a huge cost, not only to individuals and those closest to them, but also to businesses that fail to address the existence of mental health problems in the workplace. “Through the successful implementation of an effective action to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations, on average, can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.That is, for every dollar spent on successfully implementing an appropriate action, there is on average $2.30 in benefits to be gained by the organisation”. (PwC)


“Mentally healthy workplaces prevent harm to the mental health of their people, make sure people who experience mental health difficulties are supported and have positive cultures that are conducive to mental wellbeing”. “Businesses that invest in mental health are also more productive, innovative and likely to recruit and retain the best and brightest people”.
(Prof Allan Fels, Chair, National Mental Health Commission)


Want a mentally healthy workplace? Want to increase the knowledge and skills of staff, managers, human resources (HR) and organisational leaders to address mental health conditions in the workplace?
Take action on mental health and curb the cost.
Lifepath Psychology offer a range of training programs that assist leaders, managers and employees to understand:
  • Mental Health in the Workplace
  • Dealing with Employees in Crisis
  • Psychological Duty of Care Responsibilities for Managers
  • Critical Incident Emergency Planning
Further information on our corporate training packages can be found on our website a.