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​​​People may experience anxiety when they attend a job interview, do something new or when confronted with something they are scared of. Whilst anxiety is an emotion that we all experience, for some, anxiety is felt at an intensity and duration that significantly impacts their life at a sufficient severity to be called an anxiety disorder.

There are many types of anxiety disorders including: phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety disorders vary depending on what is feared and how one respond to the anxiety. Despite the type, all anxiety disorders are associated with the experience of fear and anxiety which disrupts day to day functioning.

Symptoms of anxiety

The experience of anxiety includes a combination of physical, thinking and behavioural symptoms that including:
-    Difficulty breathing -    Confusion
-    Increased muscle tension and muscle
     aches
-    Irritability
-    Pounding heart (palpitations) -    Repeated negative thoughts or excessive
     worrying
-    Nausea or abdominal discomfort -    Intense fear
-    Trembling or shaking -    Sense of helplessness or impending doom
-    Dizziness or light-headedness -    Avoidance of feared situations​
Risk Factors for anxiety
There is no single cause for anxiety it is caused by a range of factors which interact. These include

  • Genetic factors: anxiety is more common for people who have a family history of anxiety
  • Personal factors: there are certain types of people that may be more vulnerable to anxiety, for example if you are a worrier, perfectionistic or if you a shy and have low self-esteem
  • Biochemical factors: there may be some people whose anxiety is related to an imbalance in brain chemistry
  • Life Events: experiencing challenging life events like the loss of a loved one may contribute to anxiety

Managing anxiety

Like managing any emotional response, we can all improve our skills and learn more effective ways of dealing with anxiety. Strategies to managing anxiety include​
  • Become aware of what makes you anxious
  • Learning and practising breathing and relaxation techniques
  • Challenge negative or unhelpful thinking
  • Engaging in meaningful and pleasant activities
  • Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet
Managing anxiety is most effective when we have strong social support. Friends and family play an invaluable role in providing support to those managing anxiety.

Whilst some people may benefit from self help strategies, for others managing their anxiety may require the help and support of a mental health professional. Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment particularly if identified and treated early.

Treatment for anxiety

Psychological treatments, particularly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, are extremely effective in treating anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy focuses on teaching people how to challenge patterns of unhelpful thinking that contribute to intense anxiety. It also helps people respond more effectively to anxiety provoking situations. Psychological treatments can assist with developing a range of skills to identify and manage emotions more effectively, including anxiety. 

In some cases medications such benzodiazepines and anti-depressants may be required to support treatment. Medication may assist to better control symptoms, particularly early in treatment when people are still starting to develop their personal skills to manage anxiety.

Where to find help

There are many treatment and support options available for people who may be experiencing anxiety. If you, or someone close to you, is having difficulties managing anxiety, seek help early by consulting your family doctor or refer to the Find Help - Services for Mental Health Support​ directory.