What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety Affects All Of Us, Find Out More

Anxiety is a natural reaction that everyone experiences. Our “fight or flight” response is the physiological response that helps us deal with potentially dangerous situations such as crossing a busy road or approaching a big black spider in the bath tub! However, for some people, anxiety prevents them from living their life the way that they would like.

Problem anxiety can take various forms:

  • Panic attacks that occur out of the blue
  • Incredible fear about situations or objects that are not actually dangerous
  • Uncontrollable concerns and worry about everything and anything
  • Compulsive repetition of certain behaviours in order to try and reduce anxiety (e.g. washing your hands repeatedly to get rid of germs)

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

People who have an anxiety disorder often experience the common symptoms of fear and panic. During a panic attack, fear may be so intense that the person feels they will lose control, have a heart attack, or “go crazy”. Panic attacks can occur with different anxiety disorders.

In addition to fear and panic, a person with an anxiety disorder may experience symptoms including:

  • Feeling irritable or uneasy
  • Excessively worrying about things
  • Appearing to others as being highly strung
  • Having difficulty relaxing, concentrating and sleeping
  • Developing elaborate plans to avoid certain places, situations or objects
  • Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, muscle spasms, sweating, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea

What are the different types of anxiety disorders?

Some of the main types of anxiety disorders are:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This is unrealistic and excessive worry accompanied by a feeling of being on edge and a physical tension

Agoraphobia – Fear of being in a situation where escape is difficult or where a panic attack may occur

Specific Phobia – An intense fear of particular objects or situations

Social Phobia – Fear of being the centre of attention, due to concern about being judged negatively by other people

Panic Disorder – Repeated panic attacks including all of the physical symptoms of panic along with fear of the panic attack itself. For example, people may fear the panic attack will cause them to lose control, go crazy, collapse or even die.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is characterised by the presence of either obsessions, or compulsions or both. Obsessions are persistent, unwanted thoughts that constantly invade and disrupt a person’s life. Compulsions are repetitive actions or rituals that are performed to ease anxiety or prevent a feared event from occurring.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Feelings of uncontrollable fear or flashbacks associated with a traumatic experience, resulting in a person feeling unable to function in their daily life.

What are the causes of anxiety?

Anxiety can be a result of an interaction between a number of factors including:

Environmental factors It seems that life experiences, such as our family environment, can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders in some cases

Biological Causes An imbalance of the chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings and physical reactions can alter thoughts, emotions or behaviours and result in anxiety

Genetic Factors Research shows that anxiety disorders can run in some families, although they may take a different form for each family member

Personality Some personality types are more prone to anxiety than others. A person who reacts in a very emotional way and is easily upset may experience anxious thoughts and display anxious behaviours.

What Help Is Available?

There are some very successful treatments and strategies available for people with an anxiety disorder. These include:

  • Counselling and therapy
  • Medication
  • Self-help support groups and self-treatment programs

What can you do to help yourself?

Find out more about anxiety by accessing the resources and information from your local doctor, online or check out your local library

See your doctor and have an assessment conducted by a mental health professional, e.g. a psychologist

Discuss your options with your doctor and choose a program that is right for you

Don’t let misconceptions about mental health stop you from getting treatment and seeking help.

Remember that everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at times. It can be very helpful to talk to a friend, relative or counsellor so that these feelings don’t end p getting beyond your control.

 Look after your mind as well as your body by adopting a healthier lifestyle including regular exercise, a healthy eating plan, regular sleeping patterns, learning to reduce your stress levels and learning how to relax. This will be different for everybody. Some ideas to help you relax could include reading a book, watching TV, going for a walk, having a bubble bath, relaxing with a friend, yoga, meditation or even a massage. Its all different for everyone, you need to find what works for you.


The use of alcohol and cannabis or other recreational drugs is discouraged from anyone suffering from anxiety. Rather than assisting with long term recovery, these substances can see a worsening of symptoms.

Useful websites:

Anxiety Disorders Support And Information (ADSI) www.ada.mentalhealth.asn.au

Clinical research Unit for Anxiety And Depression (CRUfAD) www.crufad.com

Anxiety Network Australia www.anxietynetwork.com


This information is for educational purposes only. Websites and brochures cannot diagnose people and it is important to visit your health care professional. Please seek help and assistance if you need it. Websites listed give additional information, but they should not be taken as endorsement or recommendation.

This information was taken from a flyer produced by the Mental Health Information Service