What Is Anxiety? A Comprehensive Guide

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Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. But what is anxiety, and how do you know when to seek help?

It’s completely normal to feel anxious from time to time. In fact, as humans, we’ve been hardwired since the dawn of our existence to feel anxiety as a part of our “fight or flight” response to stress. This rush of adrenaline still works to keep us safe in potentially dangerous situations, like crossing the road, to keep us safe from getting run over!

Many of us experience feelings of anxiety in stressful situations; right before an upcoming presentation, when we’re stressed at work, or when going through significant life changes.

To learn more about anxiety and how to start implementing treatment, download our guide here –

So, What is Anxiety?

To fully understand the meaning of anxiety, we need to realise the difference between occasional feelings of anxiousness and ongoing or severe anxiety disorders. For those who don’t suffer ongoing anxiety, anxious feelings usually pass once the stressor has gone. Anxiety is when those feelings don’t go away or arise again for no particular reason. For those who have an anxiety disorder, the feeling isn’t easy to control, which makes it difficult to cope with everyday life. Depending on what is causing the anxiety, the treatment is usually long-term. Many of those suffering from anxiety also experience depression, so it’s important to approach treatment with a holistic lens.

Types of Anxiety

It’s hard to come up with a definition for anxiety, as everyone experiences it differently, however, the most common types of anxiety are:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

This is when a person feels non-specific anxiety most days. Often the feeling isn’t necessarily related to a certain life event or scenario. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder and is the most common type of anxiety. It can range from a mildly uncomfortable or unsettling feeling to more persistent and severe anxiety which disrupts all of our day-to-day activities.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is characterised by brief and often sudden panic attacks, which include intense feelings or terror and fear. Panic attacks (or anxiety attacks) are usually directly correlated with emotional trauma from significant stressors or life-altering events.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety often causes sufferers to avoid social situations, to the point where everyday living becomes difficult. If a person has an intense fear of being criticised or is overly concerned about public speaking or being assertive in social situations, they may suffer from a social anxiety disorder. It is often characterised by an intense fear of negative judgement or criticism from others.

Specific phobias

There is also a range of phobias relating to objects or situations in which anxiety is present. An example of one such phobia is agoraphobia, in which sufferers are scared of visiting places where they can’t escape, such as aeroplanes. These phobias involve feelings of panic which are disproportionate to the event or situation but, while the sufferer is often aware of this, they cannot control their feelings.

What is an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack, or panic attack, is when a sufferer is gripped by fear, in a sudden (and often uncontrollable) episode. Anxiety attacks can be caused by external stressors or events, but not always. Symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, shaking, confusion, nausea, and dizziness. Usually, panic attacks last about 10 minutes, but more severe episodes may last for hours.

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What To Do If You Or Someone You Know Has Anxiety

For severe or ongoing anxiety, it is important that swift and effective treatment is sought sooner rather than later. It may take time to treat the condition and, in the meantime, severe anxiety can seriously affect our ability to function on a day-to-day basis, affecting our lives at work, in personal relationships, or in the home. Treatment can range from medication to psychotherapy or behavioural therapy, and often involves a long-term treatment plan. In the meantime, it helps to maintain healthy habits and a solid support network. Mild anxiety can often be managed with regular exercise, meditation, getting regular and adequate sleep. It can also help to learn to manage stress by limiting stressful situations and implementing strategies to cope with them in a healthy way. If the anxiety is more severe, however, a more comprehensive treatment plan is required. We recommend visiting a qualified mental health practitioner who will equip patients with the mental, physical and emotional tools they need to combat their anxiety, improve their mental wellbeing, and treat any underlying issues.

To learn more about anxiety and how to start implementing treatment, download our guide here –

 or  contact us today to get started on the road to recovery.

Emanuele Latino

Program Director & Psychologist

Emanuele Latino

Emanuele has a compassionate approach to clients’ struggles, in order to promote awareness and initiate together the transformative process. His treatment approaches range from Gestalt, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Dialectical and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, EMDR, ACT, Neuropsychotherapy, Sensorymotor Psychotherapy and Cape Cod Model for Couple Therapy.