Do I have anxiety?
Although the experience of anxiety varies from person to person, feeling stressed, worried, and having anxious thoughts are common symptoms. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoidance behaviour
- Rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, nausea
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
14% of Australians suffer from an anxiety disorder
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Everyone feels anxious from time to time. Stress, worry, a sense of apprehension, nervousness and panic are everyday words that we use to describe anxiety. Anxious feelings are usually accompanied by physical sensations.
While anxiety is a natural reaction to a stressful situation, for some people anxious thoughts, feelings or physical symptoms can become severe and upsetting. They can interfere with daily life – disrupting work, relationships and normal activities. Anyone with these symptoms may also experience depression or have problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
You can learn to identify what triggers your anxiety and discover new ways to manage anxious thoughts and feelings.
Signs and symptoms of anxiety
Having unhelpful thoughts such as worrying about things that might happen, or things that have happened in the past, and often having negative thoughts about ourselves.
Some people feel anxiety in their bodies before they are aware of thoughts or feelings. Symptoms can include: rapid heart rate, feeling sweaty or hot, trembling, upset stomach, muscle tension, headaches and feeling irritable.
Changes in behaviour
When we are anxious we often try to avoid situations, which may increase our anxiety and make us feel isolated.
Risk factors for anxiety
Anxiety usually develops from a combination of risk factors rather than a single event. These include:
- Genes – certain anxiety disorders appear to have a genetic component.
- Physical health – poor physical health can increase vulnerability.
- Thinking style – patterns of thinking such as anticipating the worst outcomes, persistent negative self-talk and low self-esteem.
- Stress – stressful events such as a marriage breakdown, work or school deadlines, financial hardship or trauma can act as a trigger.
There are important differences between normal levels of anxiety and having an anxiety disorder, which is a medical condition characterised by persistent, excessive worry.
Types of anxiety disorders
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work, family or health.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – recurring, persistent, and distressing thoughts, images or impulses, known as obsessions or feeling compelled to carry out certain repetitive behaviours, rituals, or mental acts, known as compulsions.
Treatment for anxiety
Effective treatment for anxiety includes:
- Cognitive restructuring – identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviours.
- Expressive writing – reframing ‘old stories’ and creating new positive stories about ourselves.
- Relaxation – techniques such as meditation or progressive relaxation.
- Mindfulness – learning to live more in the moment, observing and being aware of emotions, not ‘hooking’ on to them.
- Exposure therapy – exposure to the feared object can reduce anxiety.
- Problem solving – learning to identify problems and explore new solutions.
- Self care – focusing on improving sleeping, eating and exercising habits.
- Medication – can be useful in the short or long term.
Questions or concerns about getting help for anxiety
I am really anxious about seeing a psychologist.
Anxiety is a normal response when we do something new and different.
If you haven’t been to a psychologist before, making an appointment is a big step. Even if you have previously seen a psychologist and are thinking about seeing someone new, you may feel anxious.
As a psychologist my role is to provide you with a safe space for you to understand how anxiety is limiting your life and to explore new ways of thinking about yourself and your world.
I’m an anxious person, I have to accept that is who I am.
While it is important to accept ourselves, it is also helpful to discover if there are old, often unhelpful stories from our past about ‘who we are’ that are holding us back from living fully in the present.
When we learn the difference between saying ‘I am an anxious person’ compared to ‘I am having an anxious thought’ we begin to understand the power we have within to reframe and readjust our perspective about our world and ourselves. We learn to see that nothing is fixed.
In my therapeutic work with clients and my writing workshops I am committed to the possibility of everyone being able to live a life free from anxiety.
What if therapy or writing makes things worse?
Taking time to reflect on and look at what is working and not working in our lives, perhaps for the first time, may open us up to difficult emotions and thoughts that we have been unaware of. This can trigger anxiety and fear in the short-term, but are a normal, natural part of the process of treating anxiety.
I am committed to creating a safe environment, both in groups and in individual therapy, where you can work through difficult thoughts, emotions and experiences at your own pace. I will help you frame the present and future you want.
You can live a life free of anxiety
Don’t put off the opportunity to live a life with less fear and more joy. If you are concerned about anxiety talk to your GP who will provide a diagnosis and refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner.