What is anxiety?


We can all feel worried from time to time. Whether it’s in our personal or professional life, a bit of worry is to be expected.

It can even be healthy! When people talk about anxiety, they might mean one of two things: everyday worry or an anxiety disorder.

Everyday worries, like feeling stressed and anxious about being under pressure, can still be difficult. We might feel overwhelmed and stressed for a while. This is to be expected, and the worry usually passes once the stressful situation is over.

When is anxiety a problem?

Anxiety starts to become a problem when these anxious feelings don’t go away. They become ongoing, and might happen without any reason or cause. Without help and treatment, this might start to turn into an anxiety disorder, a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life, and make you feel out of control.

This might include worrying about seemingly unimportant things, and catastrophising, or thinking situations are much worse than they are. Anxiety can interfere with your ability to enjoy your personal life and make it difficult for you to perform at work.

Effects of anxiety

One in four Australians will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life, making anxiety disorders the most common mental health disorder in the nation. ‘Anxiety’ can describe a range of anxiety-related disorders. Each one is slightly different, but they all impact on a person’s day-to-day life.

Anxiety can affect you by:

  • making it difficult to concentrate or sleep
  • making ordinary tasks at work, home or school difficult to finish
  • feeling the need to avoid stressful situations, or even going out altogether
  • causing physical symptoms, like shortness of breath, a pounding heart and trembling hands.

It’s not uncommon to experience more than one anxiety disorder at a time, since they’re often related. Some people can also experience depression alongside anxiety, or have problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

The causes of anxiety disorders are complicated, and it can be influenced by a mix of factors, like genetics, stress situations, family background, other health issues or experiencing a traumatic event.

Getting help

Only your doctor can formally diagnose you with an anxiety disorder. So if you’re concerned about your anxiety symptoms, it’s important to speak to a doctor so they can decide on the best treatment and help you find ways to manage your anxiety.

It’s also good idea to think about people you know who might be able to support you through your journey. Family, friends and work mates who you trust can be a great support. If you feel comfortable, it might also be helpful to speak to your manager. Having your organisation behind you can be a great relief, and your manager can help you find ways to reduce stress at work.

I’m feeling mentally unwell now

If you’re feeling suicidal, please seek immediate help.

Firstly, if you feel you can’t hold on, you need to tell someone you trust, and ask them to stay with you until you’re in safe hands.

Then there are many options available. If you are in Australia, you can ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 for specialised 24-hour help, support and advice. You can call or go to the emergency department at your local hospital. Or, you can dial triple zero (000) for emergency medical assistance.

For less urgent concerns, beyondblue, SANE Australia and This Way Up have online resources, helplines and online chat available.


beyondblue. Anxiety [Online; accessed Sept 2017] Available from: www.beyondblue.org.au

healthdirect. Anxiety – symptoms, treatments and causes [Online; accessed Sept 2017] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au

SANE Australia. Anxiety disorder [Online; accessed Sept 2017] Available from: https://www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/anxiety-disorder

This Way Up. I Feel Worried [Online; accessed Sept 2017] available from: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-do-you-feel/worried/