Understanding anxiety: symptoms, strategies and treatments

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia.

woman with anxiety staring out the window

The term ‘anxiety’ refers not to one single mental health condition, but to many different types. These include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and various phobias. But what all these different conditions share in common is that the symptoms suffered affect the individual’s ability to function in everyday life.

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia, with over two million people suffering from it each year. But just how easy is it to diagnose? Given that most of us experience many of the symptoms at different times, it can be difficult to know when there is a real cause for concern.

While an event such as a job interview might cause symptoms of anxiety, these usually subside once the stressor has passed. But for those who suffer from anxiety, these symptoms tend to last longer, be more frequent and are not always in response to a challenging event or other stressor.

Common symptoms across all anxiety conditions include:

  • physical: hot and cold flushes, tightening of the chest, racing heart, quick breathing, panic attacks, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
  • psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophising, or obsessive thinking
  • behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious

If these symptoms sound familiar to you, the first step is to have an appointment with your GP. He or she will be able to talk with you in more detail about anxiety and your experience, diagnose if you have a mental health condition, and suggest further treatment. Treatments for anxiety vary, depending on the severity of the condition. For some, treatment may involve lifestyle changes, while others may require psychological support or medication. Again, your GP is the best starting point.

It is important that you do talk to a professional, such as your GP, if you’re experiencing anxiety, but there are a few strategies that can help as well. Make sure that you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle – by eating well and getting regular exercise and sleep – and not using alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. Mindfulness practice, being outdoors and writing down your thoughts are other ways that might help. Taking slow, deliberate breaths is a strategy that I was taught a few years ago – to count to four while inhaling, hold for four seconds and then exhale over four seconds. Often when you turn your focus to your breathing, those other thoughts disappear, as your mind is concentrating on the current moment.

For further information and support:
Beyond Blue
Black Dog Institute



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    The Phonse
    7th Apr 2017
    talking to someone like your spouse or a friend immediately half's the problem . I often say to my wife 'why didn't I talk to you earlier'. '
    8th Apr 2017
    Most people forget that nutrition plays a big part on how you feel. I suffered anxiety as a result of IBS but now that I am managing it and feel so much healthy, my anxiety has gone. Feed the brain, some omega's 3 from chia or flax help.
    11th Apr 2017
    i don't think that nutrition plays the only part in anxiety, me thinks the government also contribute! On their handling of the elderly.
    they haven't worked out anything i mean what do the elderly that only rent do, are we out on the streets? The only ones that have been the fortunate ones are the ones being looked after.
    NOw i don't own my own home, Yest i worked like a dog, and have many problems due to this.Back problems LIgament problems, Pollution Problems, Cause you know the Government don't care anymore. They are Passing the buck, and leaving the poor to fend for themselves. ITs a shocker, and then they wonder WHY we feel anxiety and want to pass us into the mental health corridor!!! They put us into this situation, thats JUST not ON and I will vote to traumatise them too don't you worry about that :)
    8th Apr 2017
    I have suffered with anxiety since I was about 14. I am now 68. In recent years I have been diagnosed with Anxiety. Would I like to give the conditions to someone else. Absolutely but Im stuck with it. I take medicatopn for both but I control it and dont let it control me.
    11th Apr 2017
    I think we all suffer anxiety from time to time its a normal thing to do.
    When things go wrong and you don't have anybody to discuss it with?
    I don't let it control me, but when everything gets on top of you what can you expect.
    I think many things can be control. I mean getting rid of those dopy smart alec Polliticians might help. I mean I don't want to go down the American Path OF life. It shows they have stress NO end. And who helps to Cause that!!!!
    8th Apr 2017
    Oops depression since i was 14
    11th Apr 2017
    Well then Pam you could say i've had it since five then!
    My dad died when i was at that tender age.
    It was a struggle to live without him, My mother had NO english under her belt, LIve was A struggle I can assure you.
    But i got through it, It was a tough life.
    and now at the tender age of 64, its still just as tough.
    and the POLLIs don't make it easier on me.
    I worked like a dog, I didn't get much of super to think about, it might help to bury me extera, and life certainly gave me lots to think about so much so i didn't care about myself enough it seems.
    I should have been much greedier than i was. MY bad luck yeh.
    Those pollies should be putting more money in my Pocket so i can cope. OR fixing the Health system, or giving me Housing, which they are doing!! NONE of they helping that that can manage MORE! That really sucks. I didn't ask for this. But i'm sure i will be homeless one day soon, and in pain, cause my health concerns were of any matter to them!!! They should be HUNG strung and Quartered!!!

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