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Anxiety can present itself to people from all walks of life and at any stage without warning. In fact, anxiety is the most diagnosed and treated mental health disorder in Australia. At its core, feeling anxious is our body’s instinctive way of keeping us safe from danger. There are scenarios and situations where anxious feelings would be typical, such as taking an exam or starting a new job. 

In situations like this, anxiety can be beneficial as it acts as a warning sign to pay closer attention to the things that may harm us and guide our responses to these events. However, it can also occur and intensify in the absence of threat. Anxiety can also be complicated in that, some of the things we worry about we may have control over – but we may also worry about the things we don’t have control over. For instance, you may worry about preparing for a presentation and what your boss thinks of you. While we can control the preparation of the presentation, we have no control over what our boss or other people might think of us. Regardless, once our worrying and anxiety begin to overwhelm us and negatively affect our day-to-day lives, it’s important to seek help to identify symptoms and learn effective coping mechanisms.

Signs that anxiety may be taking its toll on your quality of life can include intense feelings of worry or distress, feeling that these emotions are out of your control, a sense of being detached from your body, catastrophizing (i.e., taking things out of proportion and experiencing thoughts like “everything is going to go wrong” or “I might die”), feeling tense, on edge, nervous, scared, panicky, irritable or agitated or nauseous.

Many of us who encounter anxiety can experience more than one type or condition.

Types of anxiety we can help you work through include:

Generalised Anxiety (worries) – Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) is marked by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events out of your control. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and struggle to manage or rationalise constant worrying. Children and adults with generalized anxiety worry about a variety of everyday situations (e.g. money, the future, work performance, grades, every and all aspects of life).

Obsessions & compulsions (OCD) – Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions. Individuals with OCD will experience persistent and intrusive thoughts/urges/images (i.e. compulsions e.g. checking, counting, hand washing).

Social anxiety – The defining feature of social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia) is intense anxiety or fear of being judged or rejected in social or public situations. To avoid any negative perceptions, people with social anxiety disorder often try to avoid social situations altogether e.g. eating in front of others, making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, and public speaking.

Separation anxiety – this is a common type of anxiety experienced in children being separated from their parent/caregiver. It involves an intense fear or anxiety about being separated, away from, or losing close ones.  It is also possible to experience separation anxiety as an adult.

Panic attacks and panic disorder – an individual suffering from panic attacks will experience intense, overwhelming anxiety with physical symptoms like dizziness, fainting, excessive sweating, heart-racing, and or chest pain.

Agoraphobia – a person with agoraphobia is typically fearful of leaving environments (e.g., their home) that they consider to be safe. There is an intense fear of places/events that may trigger panic, a sense of helplessness or embarrassment.

Specific Phobias – a specific phobia is experienced when a person feels an overwhelming fear of an object (e.g., spiders, snakes, dogs) or a situation (e.g. heights, storms), and goes to significant lengths to avoid these things.

Health anxiety – an individual experiencing health anxiety typically experiences irrational worries about minor symptoms falsely believing they indicate serious medical conditions.

It is also common for anxiety to present alongside another disorder, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read more: Is it normal worry, or something more serious

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