Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried.
While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t subside. Anxiety is when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing anxiety, these feelings cannot be easily controlled.
While anxiety is considered a natural reaction to a stressful situation, for some individuals anxious thoughts, feelings, or physical symptoms can become severe, and cause significant distress or interfere with their ability to cope with normal daily demands. If this occurs frequently or persists over a long period of time, the individual may at risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorders diagnosed in Australia and can take a number of different forms. These include:
Generalised anxiety disorder
This disorder involves persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work, family or health. This worry can be difficult to control and can interfere with an individual’s day-to-day functioning, for example, reduced concentration, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, muscular tension, and difficulty sleeping.
People with a specific phobia experience extreme anxiety and fear if exposed to a particular feared object or situation. Common phobias include fear of flying, spiders and other animals, heights or small spaces.
Panic disorder occurs when a person has sudden surges of overwhelming fear and anxiety that come without warning. Common symptoms that may be experienced include the sudden onset of chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and detachment from one’s thoughts and behaviours. These panic attacks often only last a few minutes, but repeated episodes may continue to occur.
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, or feel compelled to carry out certain repetitive behaviours, rituals, or mental acts, known as compulsions. 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 being afraid of doing something that may lead to embarrassment or humiliation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD refers to a set of symptoms that can occur in individuals after exposure to a frightening and traumatic event. People with PTSD re-experience the traumatic event through thoughts or images (e.g., nightmares) and tend to avoid places, people, or activities which remind them of the event. They can also feel irritable, angry, or over-alert and can experience concentration problems and difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.