Everyone experiences anxiety and fear at times. It’s a natural and common reaction to many of life’s difficulties. Some people however, feel anxious or fearful in situations for no apparent reason.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, with one in three women and one in five men experiencing anxiety at some point in their lives.
Anxiety can affect our ability to concentrate, sleep, and carry out ordinary tasks at work, home, or school. People with anxiety often avoid stressful situations and in extreme cases avoid going out altogether. Anxiety can also appear as physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and trembling hands.
There are different types of anxiety – the most common are:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) occurs when we feel intense worry most of the time for a period of more than six months. It’s an overwhelming and persistent worry about several or many things that make it hard to function in your everyday life. Such things include work, school, health issues, finances, and relationships. Often, it is a group or worries that become overwhelming. In severe instances, GAD can make everything feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to get of bed or leave the house.
A panic disorder is marked by recurring panic attacks. These are unexpected feelings of overwhelming and intense fear and distress, which can occur when we’re in either a calm or anxious state. Many people experience a panic attack at some stage of their lives. Panic disorder occurs when these attacks keep happening and start to interfere with our lives. People with a panic disorder report to be very fearful of having another attack. You may recognise the following symptoms of a panic attack in yourself, or in someone you know:
- Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
- Fear of dying
- Feeling like you’re choking
- Heart palpitations/pounding heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest pain
- Feeling like you’re detached from yourself
- Numbness or tingling
Social anxiety is common. Over 10% of Australians will experience it in their lifetime. Social anxiety occurs when we’re fearful and anxious about situations where we think we’re being judged by others. You may have social anxiety if over the past six months on one or more social occasions you have felt:
- Intense fear of being judged by others
- Fearful of rejection or offending people
- Worried that you will show signs of being anxious, which will lead to embarrassment.
The symptoms and fear can be so severe that you may:
- Worry so much that it causes you to feel physically sick
- Worry for weeks prior to an event
- Worry others will notice how anxious you appear
- Avoid situations or cease going to work or school because of the anxiety
Specific phobias are marked by a strong and an irrational fear towards an object or situation. When we have a specific phobia, we try to avoid the perceive threat at all costs, even when we many realise there’s no danger. Specific phobias are more than feeling uneasy about flying or being on the highest level of a building. When we have a specific phobia, we react very strongly and avoid the situation. Even thinking about the phobia can cause extreme anxious distress. Some common phobias involve extreme fear of:
- Insects, snakes, or spiders
- Lifts or enclosed spaces
Health anxiety occurs when we’re feeling overly anxious about having or developing serious illnesses or diseases. You may have health anxiety if you experience the following symptoms:
- Uncontrollable worry about your physical symptoms
- Frequently checking your body for signs of ailments.
- Excessively focusing on your body and physical symptoms
- Frequently seeking reassurance about your health
- Feeling anxious and afraid that you have a serious condition