Behind the smiles on screen, presenter Anna Williamson thought she was going mad.
At 25 she landed a dream job on a children’s TV show but was crippled by anxiety, with panic attacks and insomnia.
But after a simple mouth swab test she now knows her mental health issues are part of who she is – written in her DNA.
Anna, 36, said: “I now know from the test that I’m susceptible to stress. It’s the proof, the stamp on the paper saying, ‘Yes, this is who you are.’
“I think we can take comfort in clarification and so I know it’s not just me being bad at coping with things. This is telling me it’s who I am genetically.”
Anna’s wellbeing test by DNA Plan discovered she has a greater response to stress.
It also looked at how likely she was to suffer from anxiety, low mood and sleep issues.
She was then advised on what lifestyle changes she could make to improve her mental health.
Anna’s problems began in 2007 when she was fronting the kids’ show Toonattik on GMTV.
“I was battling and coping with various symptoms of increased stress, burn out and emotional difficulties,” she said.
“I didn’t want to get up in the morning, I was panicking about panicking. I felt like I was going pretty mad in myself.”
The former Splash! contestant was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and treated with anti-anxiety medication and counselling. But things got worse when she had her first child, Vincenzo, two years ago. A difficult birth left her with post- traumatic stress disorder, leading to a postnatal breakdown.
But with the help of her DNA test, Anna knows this could be down to her genes and issues with her sleeping pattern.
Something in her DNA means she does not get proper deep sleep. So the sleep deprivation that new mums deal with could have driven her to the edge.
Anna now says if she has more children with husband Alex Di Pasquale she will need to be more aware of her sleep.
She said: “The test has offered me a huge degree of confidence and comfort. With mental health being so tricky to understand because we can’t see it, it’s almost like with this test, this is the visible thing we can see.”
It also revealed that Anna, who has written a book about her issues, Breaking Mad, is wired to want to exercise.
She said: “If we have a proper scientifically backed test that can help educate us on who we are and what our make-up is, we’re in a more empowered position.
“And because I know what it’s like to be at rock bottom I do everything I can to prevent getting to that point again.”
Qualified counsellor and life coach Anna also wants to teach her son about mental health.
Her mum had panic attacks after a miscarriage, while her brother has a history of anxiety but no one in her family discussed it.
“I’m not ashamed or embarrassed that I’ve had mental health issues so I want to bring up my son with that being normal for him to understand.
“We vaccinate our kids and look after their nutrition.
“And with tests like these we have a choice to have a head start on perhaps what they have in store mental health wise.”
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