Like stress, anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing, writes Brisbane Psychologist Katherine Vuong – so how can you recognise if it is getting out of hand?
Anxiety is a natural and normal reaction to stressful situations, and is associated with feelings of worry, apprehension, or nervousness.
As such, it is not necessarily a bad thing, as it has the potential to help us make better decisions. For example, feeling anxious about whether you will finish an assignment on time might result in you asking yourself questions to determine whether you need to set aside extra time, or postpone less important tasks to complete it.
For most people, anxiety is usually a short-lived reaction to some perceived stressor, and is unlikely to cause distress or impair their functioning.
However, for those with an anxiety disorder, these worries are persistent, upsetting, and interrupt their daily life.
Common Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder
Common symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- rapid heartbeat or feeling pressure in the chest area;
- muscle tension, grinding teeth, clenching jaw;
- shaking or trembling;
- feeling on edge or restless;
- feeling nauseous or sick in the stomach;
- avoidant behaviours.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
There are different types of anxiety disorders.
Some are characterised by persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work or family.
Others involve extreme fear and anxiety about particular objects or situations (eg phobia), or severe anxiety about being criticised or viewed negatively by others (social anxiety).
While there is no single known cause of an anxiety disorder, there are a number of risk factors that may play a role, including your genes, biology, thinking style, coping strategies, and stressful life events.
Help for an Anxiety Disorder
A psychologist can work with you to identify factors that are contributing to your anxiety disorder, and help you to build skills to manage it when it arises. This might involve helping you challenge unhelpful thoughts, developing more helpful coping strategies, problem-solving, and practising mindfulness skills. Lifestyle changes may also help to reduce your stress and anxiety.
Author: Katherine Vuong, B Beh Sc (Hons), MAPS.