What is Anxiety?

What is anxiety? Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. Anxious feelings are a normal reaction to a situation where a person feels under pressure – for example, meeting work deadlines, sitting exams or speaking in front of a group of people. However, for some people these anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue after the stressful event has passed. For a person experiencing anxiety, anxious feelings cannot be brought under control easily. Anxiety can be a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. Anxiety is common, but the sooner you get help, the sooner you can learn to control the condition – so it doesn’t control you.

Common symptoms of anxiety;


  • Withdrawing from, avoiding, or enduring with fear objects or situations which cause anxiety
  • Urges to perform certain rituals in a bid to relieve anxiety
  • Not being assertive (i.e. avoiding eye contact)
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Being startled easily


  • Overwhelmed
  • Fear (particularly when having to face certain objects, situations or events)
  • Worried about physical symptoms (e.g. fearing there is an undiagnosed medical problem)
  • Dread (e.g. that something bad is going to happen)
  • Constantly tense, nervous or on edge
  • Uncontrollable or overwhelming panic


  • “I’m going crazy.”
  • “I can’t control myself.”
  • “I’m about to die.”
  • “People are judging me.”
  • having upsetting dreams or flashbacks of a traumatic event
  • Finding it hard to stop worrying
  • Unwanted or intrusive thoughts


  • Increased heart rate/racing heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting, nausea or pain in the stomach
  • Muscle tension and pain (e.g. sore back or jaw)
  • Feeling detached from your physical self or surroundings
  • having trouble sleeping (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)
  • Sweating, shaking
  • Dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Hot or cold flushes
  • Difficulty concentrating

Types of anxiety there are different types of anxiety. The six most common are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more. Social phobia a person has an intense fear of being criticized, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

  • Specific phobias

A person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example, having an injection or travelling on a plane. There are many different types of phobias.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) this can happen any time from one month after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event.

  • Panic disorder

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. A person having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, increased heart rate, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die.


Get support:

People with anxiety can find it difficult to take the first step in seeking help. They may need the support of family, friends and a health professional. There is no one proven way that people recover from anxiety. However, there is a range of effective treatments and health professionals who can help people on the road to recovery.