Anxiety Explained

What is Anxiety and what are the common symptoms?

What is Anxiety?

Common symptoms, types & treatment


What is anxiety? 

Anxiety, unlike stress and worry which everyone experiences from time to time, is persistent and chronic. Anxiety can stem from multiple stressors (e.g. finances, relationships, health, the future) or may not have a clear cause. Anxiety can be helpful in certain circumstances; however, it becomes unhelpful when it restricts living and is out of proportion to the threat. It is excessive and can be hard to control, leading it to interrupt and disturb everyday life.  


How common is it? 

Currently, 3 million Australians live with anxiety, and it is the most common mental health problem in Australia. Anxiety disorders are prevalent across all age groups, though rates of anxiety disorders decrease with age. One in four people will experience anxiety in their lifetime, making it crucial people are equipped with the skills to cope with it. 


What are the symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety symptoms can worsen over time and can be hard to know when to seek help as we all get worried from time to time when under pressure. Symptoms of anxiety to look out for include: 


  • Excessive fear 
  • Restlessness 
  • Tense, wound up and on edge. 


  • Worrying 
  • Obsessive thinking  
  • Catastrophising 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Re-experiencing symptoms 

Physical symptoms 

  • Racing heartbeat 
  • Quickened breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Hot and cold flushes 
  • Tightening of the chest 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Headaches 


  • Not attending social situations  
  • Hypervigilant 


Types of Anxiety 

Anxiety can look different in everyone, and each type needs to be treated differently. 


Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) 

Generalised anxiety disorder may be what you typically think of when you think about anxiety. It is excessive anxiety & worry about numerous events or activities in which the individual will have difficulty controlling worry most days. The anxiety can be constant and consuming, making it hard to work, study or see friends and family. 


Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety is heightened fear or anxiety about one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to possible embarrassment, humiliation, or scrutiny by others. It tends to involve fears that they will act in a way or show anxiety that will be negatively evaluated (rejection, offence, criticism). This can happen in everyday situations such as eating in front of others.  


Specific Phobia 

Specific phobia features marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation in which exposure to phobic stimuli invariably provokes immediate fear or anxiety. Phobic stimuli are actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety. This fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed and causes impairment in the individual’s life. We may all have a degree of fear towards things like spiders, needles or heights for example, but when it’s out of proportion, this is when it can become debilitating. 


Panic Disorder 

Panic disorder can develop when people become stuck in the “fear-of-fear” cycle. Panic attacks are intense and overwhelming and involve physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing and dizziness. Therefore, individuals who have experienced a panic attack may become very scared of another one occurring and catastrophize physical sensations, bringing on recurring panic attacks. This can create significant maladaptive changes in behaviour (avoidance of things such as exercise and caffeine). 


Other kinds of anxiety 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Obsessive-Compulsion disorder (OCD) 
  • Separation anxiety disorder 
  • Selective mutism 
  • Substance / Medication Induced Anxiety Disorder  


Seeking support for anxiety 

So, anxiety can take on many forms and be hard to cope with and manage. Living with anxiety leads people to have significantly less tolerance for uncertainty. They underestimate their ability to cope with difficult or ambiguous circumstances and overestimate the likelihood of negative consequences. It triggers the fight or flight response on a chronic level, which is associated with the initiation and progression of a wide variety of diseases. Therefore, it is so important you seek help to learn how to adaptively tackle your anxious thoughts and live to your fullest.  


Making an Appointment with Axis Clinic

To make an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists, counsellors or mental health social workers please contact our helpful reception team on 07 3254 0333 so that we can support you further.  


 5 Self-care tips to support you


Look after your physical health. 


Did you know, your physical health plays a huge role in your mental health? It is crucial for us all to nurture and nourish our bodies so we can perform and live to the best of our abilities.  

  1. Be with nature – Going outside for even just 15 minutes of your day can help ground and relax you. Catch some sun or lie in the shade, close your eyes, and listen to your surroundings. This can help block out any of those unwanted thoughts. 
  2. Exercise – Physical activity can really boost your mood and distract your mind from those worrying thoughts. Even just a walk around the block can help clear your wind. 
  3. Try cutting coffee – For all the coffee lovers like myself, I know this may be a hard one. Unfortunately, drinking coffee can worsen symptoms of anxiety, induce anxiety, and even cause panic attacks for people with panic disorder. We recommend trying matcha, which rather than causing sudden energy ups and downs, creates calm alertness which is released gradually through your day! Cheers to that.  


Good sleep routine  


It can be so hard to sleep when your brain and thoughts won’t shut off. But sleep gives us the energy to cope with these stressful feelings and experiences, which means a lack of sleep can keep you in this worrisome cycle.  

  1. Try to establish a sleep routine – Going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day. 
  2. Avoid screens at least an hour before bed – Instead, try reading a book that can help calm your mind and soon, your eyes will probably be feeling heavy and ready to rest. 
  3. Relax before you sleep – Deep breathing techniques, muscle relaxation and mediation techniques may work for you. 
  4. Ensure your environment is comfortable and clean – For example, you could try using a nice room spray, weighted blanket, or salt lamp to add warm light or make your bed…anything to make your bedroom your safe space.  


Manage your worries. 


If you love organising, this is the trick for you. Anxiety can make it hard to stop worrying and lead you to feel out of control. You might feel like you need to keep worrying to stop bad things from happening. Therefore, it can be useful to address these worries in a more effective way. 

  1. Set a time to go over your worries – Set yourself a timer and allow yourself the time to gather your thoughts, to reassure yourself you haven’t forgotten anything. This can enable you to clear your thoughts and think rationally about them. 
  2. Write down your worries and keep them in a particular place – Once they are on paper, they can feel less overpowering. 


Breathing exercises 


Always remember to breathe. When you are feeling overwhelmed and not in control, simply take a big inhale and exhale. Take your time and slow your breathing. Focus only on this. It is the easiest thing but can be forgotten in times of panic and stress. 


Talk to someone you trust or a support group. 


Talking to someone about what’s making you anxious can be a huge relief and a chance to receive the support you need. Even if they can’t solve the problem, just having someone listen and care for you can take the weight off your shoulders.  



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