Anxiety Disorders


What are anxiety disorders?

It is normal to feel a sense of nervousness, tension and apprehension as part of the normal human experience.  However, if these feelings of tension and nervousness persist to the point of interfering with your work, studies or relationships then a full blown anxiety disorder may develop.  Anxiety is essentially a state of unbearable tension, nervousness and apprehension which may or may not be in the context of external events.  Anxiety can manifest in many forms and can affect people in different ways.

What are the different types of anxiety disorders?

Anxiety can manifest in different forms and affect people in different ways.  The different types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health difficulties seen by doctors and psychotherapists.  It is estimated that 25-30 percent of the population will suffer from an anxiety disorder.  While anxiety is a normal emotional response to certain external events, it is not uncommon for people to develop full blown anxiety disorders if tension, nervousness and apprehension persists for prolonged periods.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Generally speaking anxiety manifests itself as a persistent state of feeling tense, nervous and apprehensive accompanied by an inability to relax.  However, depending on the nature of the anxiety disorder the symptoms can vary.

What are the symptoms of Generalised anxiety disorder?

Generalised anxiety is a persistent state of tension, nervousness and an inability to relax.  The main symptoms include:

  • Restlessness, feeling tense and on edge
  • Irritability and apprehension
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling worrying thoughts
  • Problems with sleep
  • Difficulties concentrating

What are the symptoms of Panic disorder?

Panic disorder is an intense form of anxiety which usually manifests as panic attacks.  Panic attacks can occur spontaneously or as a result of external situations.  People having a panic attack experience physical symptoms like feeling breathless, racing and pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shaking and a choking sensation.

The symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Intense fear to the point of feeling out of control
  • Constantly worrying when the next attack will occur
  • An intense desire to escape from situation or seek safety
  • Fear or avoidance of places that provoke panic attack

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is characterised by feeling unusually tense, nervous and anxious in social situations such as meeting new people or when in the presence of others who are not familiar.  Social anxiety can also occur in situations that require people to perform such as public speaking or business meetings.  Those with social anxiety have an intense fear of embarrassment, humiliation, rejection and offending others.

Other symptoms include:

  • Intense fear of being judged negatively by others
  • Worrying for days or weeks before a social gathering
  • Avoiding public places or places there are people
  • Difficulty in forming or sustaining relationships
  • Blushing, trembling or sweating around other people
  • Feeling nauseous or sick when others are around

What are the causes of anxiety disorder?

There are many causes for anxiety disorders.  Anxiety disorders could occur in those with a family history of mental health difficulties.  Those with a worrisome personality could be at risk of developing a full blown anxiety disorder at some point in their life.  Being subjected to constant stress and worry on a regular basis could contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.  The repeated use of illicit drugs and stimulants like caffeine can also increase the risk of developing anxiety.  Certain medical conditions are known be associated with the symptoms of anxiety and this should be ruled out by your doctor before proceeding with a treatment plan.

Can I get treatment for anxiety?

There are different treatments for anxiety disorders depending on the nature and severity of the condition.  Mild to moderate anxiety symptoms respond well to psychotherapeutic and behavioural therapies and this is usually the first line treatment. More severe forms of anxiety may require medications such as anti-depressants or benzodiazepines. Your doctor or therapist will perform tests and investigations to rule out a medical reason for your anxiety and will devise a treatment plan based on the nature and severity of your symptoms.

How can I reduce my risk of getting an anxiety disorder?

There are certain things that we can all do reduce our risk of developing an anxiety disorder:

  • Finding time to relax and meditate
  • Reduce stress levels by managing workload and breaking down tasks
  • Avoid constant and unsustainable stress provoking environments and situations
  • Optimise nutrition by eating healthy and drinking adequate amounts of water
  • Avoid unhealthy foods and drinks
  • Minimise intake of caffeine, nicotine and energy drinks
  • Adequate sleep and exercise
  • Spending time doing the things you enjoy and keeping the right company
  • Avoid news channels
Click here to view therapists that specialise in anxiety disorders and related conditions