Anxiety is a natural reaction that everyone experiences - part of our fight or flight response - which helps us to be alert to potentially dangerous or fearful situations such as crossing a busy road or approaching a big black spider in the bathtub! However for some people it prevents them from living their life in 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 or usually scary; uncontrollable concerns and worry about everything and anything; or compulsive repetition of rituals in order to try to reduce anxiety e.g. washing hands repeatedly to get rid of germs.

What Are Some of The Symptoms of Anxiety?

People who may have a disorder of this type often experience common symptoms of fear and panic

  • fear vs. anxiety - Anxiety has physical and emotional symptoms similar to those of fear. Fear, however, is always based on, or triggered by something. A person with an anxiety disorder feels the fear but cannot necessarily name the reason for feeling anxious.
  • panic attacks - During a panic attack, fear may be so intense that you feel like you 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 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 spasm, sweating, shortness of breath, headaches and nausea, with no physical cause


What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Some of the main types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - marked by unrealistic and excessive worry accompanied by constant and often unnecessary concern about anything or everything
  • Agoraphobia – fear of being in a situation where escape is impossible or where a panic attack may occur
  • Specific Phobia – intense fear of particular objects or situations
  • Social Phobia – fear of being judged negatively by other people
  • Panic Disorder - repeated panic attacks including all of the physical symptoms of panic along with a fear that the panic attack itself will lead to a total loss of control, or even death
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Persistent and unwanted thoughts which constantly invade and disrupt a person’s life. People may end up performing the same action or processes over and over in an attempt to ease their anxiety about these thoughts
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – feelings of uncontrollable fear or flashbacks after 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 of a number of factors including:

  • Environmental factors - some people become anxious when faced with certain situations, life events, people or places. When these triggers are gone, the anxiety eases or disappears altogether.
  • Biological factors - an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings and physical reactions can alter someone’s thoughts, emotions or behaviour and result in anxiety.
  • Genetic factors - It is still unclear whether anxiety disorders can be inherited, but research shows that anxiety disorders run in some families. They may take on a different form for each family member.
  • Personality - some personality types are more prone. A person who often reacts in a very emotional way and who is easily upset may experience anxious thoughts and display anxious behaviours.


What Help is Available?
This condition can be a big deal and you don’t have to work it out on your own. There are some very successful treatments and strategies available for people who suffer. These include:

  • Counselling and psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Self-help support groups and self-treatment programs
  • Alternative therapies

Remember that everyone experiences feelings like this at times.  It can often be very calming to talk to a friend, relative or counsellor so that these feelings don’t end up 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 and learning to reduce your stress levels and relaxing. This is different for everybody. You may watch TV or read a book, go for a walk, see a movie or have a long bubble bath.  Others find slow breathing or remedial massage beneficial.

Therapeutic Axis provides counselling in Sydney and psychotherapy in Sydney for those suffering from or affected by this disorder.

Please note, the use of alcohol, cannabis and other recreational drugs is discouraged for anyone suffering from this condition. Rather than assisting with long term recovery, these substances can cause a worsening of symptoms.


Further Reading
Anxiety Disorders: The Caregivers Information for Support People, Family and Friends, by Kenneth V. Strong, Select Books, 2003, ISBN: 1590790561
Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Edmund J. Bourne, New Harbinger Publications, 2005
.ISBN: 1572244135

Overcoming Anxiety: From Short-Time Fixes to Long-Term Recovery, by Reneau Peuifoy,
Holt, Henry & Company, 1997, ISBN: 0805047891 1300 794 991