Anxiety is the clinical term for people who have emotional, psychological and behavioural fears. It is something that we all feel at one time or another, and affects people of all ages.
According to the Professor of psychiatry and Director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre Jayashri Kulkarni, anxiety is a good thing in small doses. “It can keep us safe, help us focus and motivate us to achieve what we may believe we are unable to achieve.”
However, for some people anxiety is a serious problem, especially for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder. Kulkarni says that anxiety gets out of hand “when you experience many physical and emotional symptoms and cannot function in your daily life”.
An anxiety disorder is more than just short-term worry or stress. People with anxiety disorders experience feelings they cannot easily control.
Physical signs of anxiety include a racing heart, fast breathing and swallowing, becoming sweaty, chest tightness, butterflies in your stomach, shaky legs, diarrhoea, and sleeplessness.
Psychological signs of anxiety include difficulty concentrating, feeling panicky or overwhelmed, wanting to hide, feelings of nervousness and apprehension, and distress that something bad may happen.
It is important to understand what kind of anxiety you are experiencing by learning the difference between worry, anxiety and anxiety disorders. You can then begin to look at your life and understand why you are having those feelings, and learn to manage them.
Jean Hailes, Australia’s leading women’s health organisation, has created an online resource called Learn, think, do which is dedicated to helping women understand worry, anxiety and anxiety disorders.
The website includes a self-assessment which helps you to know if what you are experiencing is worry, anxiety or an anxiety disorder. It also includes toolkits to help women manage their anxiety.
You may wish to take this Depression, Anxiety and Stress Test to define and measure your emotional state and help you understand your feelings.
Find out more at Jean Hailes.