Anxiety can occur in many people without warning and at any stage of our lives, and is often present alongside other disorders like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s the most diagnosed and treated mental health disorder in Australia, but at its core, feeling anxious is our body’s instinctive way of keeping us safe from danger.
What triggers anxiety?
Typically, scenarios like taking an exam or starting a new job can make us feel anxious, and in moments 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. On the flip side, it can also occur and intensify in the absence of threat.
Anxiety can be complicated in that some of the things we worry about, we may not 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.
What are 5 symptoms of anxiety?
Signs that anxiety may be taking its toll on your quality of life can include:
1. Intense feelings of worry, distress, nervousness, or panic
2. Feeling that these emotions are out of your control
3. A sense of being detached from your body
4. Catastrophizing (i.e., taking things out of proportion and experiencing thoughts like “everything is going to go wrong” or “I might die”)
5. Feeling tense, on edge, scared, agitated or nauseous
Many of us who encounter anxiety can experience more than one type or condition.
The different types of anxiety
There are many types of anxiety that we can help you work through. Some of them include:
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalised anxiety is marked by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events out of your control. Symptoms of GAD include always expecting disaster and struggle in order to manage or rationalise constant worrying. Children and adults with generalised anxiety worry about a variety of everyday situations like money, the future, work performance, grades, and other aspects of life.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessions and compulsions 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 (e.g. checking, counting, hand washing).
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.
This is a common type of anxiety experienced in children being separated from a parent or caregiver. It involves an intense fear or anxiety about being separated, away from, or losing close ones. It’s 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.
A person with agoraphobia is typically fearful of leaving environments (like 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.
A specific phobia is experienced when a person feels an overwhelming fear of an object (like spiders, snakes or dogs) or a situation (e.g. heights or storms), and goes to significant lengths to avoid these things.
An individual experiencing health anxiety typically experiences irrational worries about minor symptoms, falsely believing they indicate serious medical conditions.
Want to learn more? Check out our blog on diagnosing anxiety.