What is Anxiety?
We all feel afraid, worried or stressed at times. These feelings are normal and common responses to situations of pressure and usually pass when the cause or trigger is removed. Anxiety occurs when these feelings don’t go away, are not easily controlled and happen without a particular reason or cause. Anxiety can make it hard for you to cope with day-to-day life and it can be a distressing experience.
When worrying becomes a constant feature in your life, you could have an anxiety problem. Anxiety can leave you feeling powerless and, if you don’t get help, it can lead to depression. Anxiety often develops gradually, making it tricky to work out when it turns into a serious issue.
People living with anxiety disorders may be unable to stop worrying about things and perceive situations as worse than they actually are. Anxiety interferes with your enjoyment of life and disrupts work, relationships and perceptions of self.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and one in four people will be affected at some stage in their life. It is important to remember that anxiety is a treatable condition. The sooner someone with anxiety gets help, the more likely they are to recover. However, whatever stage you are at, seeking help will improve your situation.
Some Anxiety is normal.
Normal anxiety is an early warning system and plays an important role in helping us to safely navigate the world. However, these worries should not be a constant feature of everyday life. Feelings of stress or worry should pass once the stressor is removed. An anxiety disorder is more than simply feeling stressed or worried.
When Anxiety becomes a problem
Anxiety becomes a problem when it stops being helpful and starts limiting your lifestyle and your choices. An anxiety disorder is a medical condition, which is characterised by persistent, excessive worry. While anxiety disorders can take many forms, the common feature is that your anxiety will start to interfere with your ability to carry out tasks or take pleasure in day-to-day life.
Signs and Symptoms of an Anxiety Condition
Normal anxiety is usually connected to a stressful experience and passes once the situation is resolved. If you have an anxiety condition, the type of anxiety you experience is frequent and persistent and not always connected to an obvious cause. This type of anxiety impacts on your quality of life and your day-to-day functioning. While an anxiety condition can take many forms and each condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms, including:
- Panic attacks
- Hot and cold flushes, sweating or blushing
- Racing heart or tightening of the chest or stomach
- Hyperventilation (breathing rapidly) or, conversely, being short of breath
- Trembling or dizziness
- Feeling tired
- Choking or dry mouth
- Muscle tension
- Having difficulty sleeping or experiencing nightmares
- Excessive fear, worry, catastrophising, or obsessive thinking
- Feeling powerless
- A sense of impending panic, danger, dread or doom
- Mind racing, finding it hard to think
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Restlessness, or feeling tense, edgy and wound up
Sometimes these symptoms can impact your life causing you to avoid situations, leaving you isolated and eventually leading to depression. While it takes time to get better, you can be supported to manage your anxiety by seeking professional help.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can take many forms. The most common types are:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – excessive and uncontrollable worry about a range of different things in ordinary situations
- Social Phobias – intense fears of being criticised, embarrassed or rejected causing you to avoid social situations
- Specific Phobias – irrational fears that only apply to a particular object or situation (e.g. insects, flying, confined spaces)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – unwanted and intrusive thoughts, impulses or fears resulting in repetitive routines or behaviours as a means of coping.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – this occurs after experiencing a traumatic life event and the feelings or thoughts don’t abate. It involves memories, flashbacks, nightmares and difficulties sleeping.
- Panic Disorder – regular panic attacks. Sudden intense and overwhelming episodes of irrational fear combined with physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pains and dizziness.
Treatments for Anxiety
No matter what type of anxiety disorder you have, rest assured, treatment is available. Effective treatment can help you manage your anxiety rather than letting it control you. The type of treatment you receive depends on the type of anxiety you are experiencing.
Don’t continue to experience your anxiety alone.
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