Do I have anxiety? The signs and how to overcome anxiety

January 22, 2021

We all experience a little anxiety from time to time. And in periods of stress it’s not unusual to be feeling a little nervous. But with over 2 million Australian adults suffering from an anxiety disorder in any given year, it’s important to be able to determine when a ‘little bit’ of anxiety becomes too much. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. In controlled amounts it can be healthy, and even downright beneficial. 

But some stress responses don’t match the current events or challenges in your life. If you have persistent feelings of apprehension, fear or nervousness, you may have an anxiety disorder. 

An anxiety disorder occurs when your body’s natural warning system kicks into overdrive and then starts to have a negative impact on your life. Thankfully, there’s plenty of support available to help you diagnose your condition and show you how to deal with anxiety.

What are the different types of anxiety?

There are many different types of anxiety disorders. These are typically broken up into six main categories:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with GAD experience chronic feelings of worry, tension or fear. These feelings don’t match the experiences and challenges that the sufferer is facing in their daily life. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD have recurrent thoughts and repetitive behaviours. For example, they may count, clean or hand-wash over and over. 

Panic Disorders

A person suffering from a panic disorder will experience ‘panic attacks’. These are sudden, intense and overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain and sweating are some of the physical signs of a panic attack.

Phobias

A phobia is the fear of a very specific object, situation or experience. Sufferers will often go to great lengths to avoid the object of fear. 

Common phobias include:

  • Acrophobia – fear of heights
  • Agoraphobia – fear of situations where escape might be difficult
  • Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • Cynophobia – fear of dogs
  • Ophidiophobia – fear of snakes

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can develop after a terrifying event such as war, physical assault or a car accident. Sufferers may experience ‘edginess’, flashbacks or dreams. They often avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event, such as cars, crowded places, or loud noises. 

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is the intense fear of criticism, embarrassment or public humiliation. Everyday social situations can cause overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in sufferers.

People with social anxiety often avoid everyday social situations. For example, speaking in public, eating in public, being assertive or making small talk. 

The condition can be so severe that sufferers may struggle to be around other people at all.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety rarely develops from a single cause. A combination of factors are usually at play when a person begins developing an anxiety disorder:

Medical conditions

For some people, anxiety may be a symptom of an underlying health issue such as heart disease, diabetes or tumours. People may also suffer symptoms of anxiety when experiencing drug or alcohol withdrawal.  

Medication

Medication-induced anxiety disorders are not uncommon. Make sure to read the label or speak to your doctor about possible side-effects before taking any new medications. 

Drugs that have the potential to cause anxiety include: 

  • Anesthetics
  • Thyroid medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Mood stabilisers
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants

Stressful events

Stressful, destabilising or traumatic events are a major cause of anxiety for many people. In some situations, symptoms of anxiety will begin to reduce as the stressful event passes. But sometimes the anxiety may be ongoing. This ongoing anxiety may need medical or psychological support.

Stressful events include:

  • Work-related stress, including a job change or job loss
  • Relationship problems
  • Pregnancy or a new child
  • Death or loss of a loved one
  • Verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse
  • Life-threatening situations such as a car accident

Depression

Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Both conditions will need treatment to begin the healing process. There’s some crossover between the symptoms of clinical depression and those of anxiety, so it can be difficult to tell them apart. That’s why it’s always best to seek the help of a doctor to get an accurate and professional diagnosis.

How do you know if you have anxiety?

Anxiety symptoms tend to develop gradually. It can be tricky to recognise an anxiety disorder, even when it starts having a negative impact on your life.

Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique. Your symptoms could range from slight butterflies in the stomach, through to full-blown panic attacks. Symptoms of anxiety can be generalised, or they can follow specific events or situations. 

If you’re experiencing frequent feelings of fear or worry, you may wish to consult a doctor. 

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Tension or restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Racing heart and quick breathing
  • Tightening chest
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Avoidance of anxiety-inducing situations
  • Panic attacks

Please note that the symptoms of anxiety can vary greatly from person to person. Some people who are not depressed may display some of these symptoms, while others who are depressed may not. 

It is always best to speak to a professional rather than trying to self-diagnose or guess the condition of a friend or family member.

How to deal with anxiety

Treatment for anxiety depends on many factors These include the severity of your condition, your physical health and your responsiveness to therapy or medication. 

In some situations you may never completely overcome your anxiety. But the right balance of medication, therapy and management techniques can help you live a full and happy life with your anxiety kept well in check. 

Overcoming anxiety often starts with a visit to a doctor. You can then discuss your symptoms and work with your doctor to develop a mental health care plan. 

The care plan may include any of the following:

  • Your symptoms
  • What help you require
  • The results you wish to achieve
  • What treatment is best for you
  • Medications to be prescribed
  • A referral to a specialist — such as a psychologist

Medication is often a temporary solution to help ease the symptoms of anxiety. You can then focus on overcoming your condition with therapy and management techniques. 

Some people need the ongoing support of medication. But a key goal is to work towards managing your anxiety without the need for drugs.

Need help overcoming your anxiety?

If you suspect that you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder, or need help managing your condition, our doctors are here to help you. We can discuss your symptoms in a Telehealth consultation. We can also provide you with a referral to a specialist, and prescribe the medication you need to get your mental health back on track. 

Our Telehealth consultations are 100% confidential. So you can get the professional, private and discrete mental health support you need to overcome your anxiety.

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