What is Anxiety?
Anxiety (like worry, nervousness or stress) is a natural, human emotional state that falls along the continuum of ‘fear’. Fear serves as a protective function, to help us survive in the world, by learning to avoid things that might hurt us, or prepare us for situations that are coming up.
It is more common than not to feel some level of nervousness or anxiety before an important exam, business presentation or public performance. Most people would probably feel anxiety or fear if they saw their toddler at the top of a ladder, or thought they'd heard an intruder break into their house. The part of the brain that releases feelings of fear and anxiety is the part that says “Possible Danger Alert - Pay Attention!”
Physical signs of Anxiety:
Because anxiety exists on the same continuum as fear, many symptoms of anxiety are similar to mild through to intense physical fear reactions including:
- racing heart
- shortness of breath
- tightness in chest
- difficulty swallowing
- sweaty palms
- dry mouth
- ‘butterflies’/churning stomach
- feeling nauseous
- muscle tension
- feeling jittery, restless or 'on edge'
When is Anxiety a problem?
Anxiety becomes a problem when too much of life seems overly stressful or threatening, when worrying thoughts are constant or intrusive, or when physical symptoms are overwhelming or occurring regularly.
If worry and stress are affecting your emotional, social and daily functioning, anxiety could be a problem:
Social = relationships with family, friends and community
Emotional = general feelings and mood, ability to cope with stress, self esteem
Occupational = ability to be involved in work/school/study/parenting, to take care of personal health and hygiene, and to be engaged in life
Anxiety is the most common emotional disorder in adults and children, occurring in at least 15% of the population.
A person may be generally anxious in temperament or develop anxiety following loss, trauma, significant stress or a major life change.
Types of Anxiety include:
Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
How does Psychological Therapy help Anxiety?
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) assists people to identify their unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that trigger and maintain anxiety, and to develop more realistic and healthy beliefs about themselves and the world.
EMDR (Eye Movement De-sensitisation & Re-processing) is a bio-kinetic therapy that helps people to integrate and process distressing thoughts and memories that may be the source of presenting anxiety.