Anxiety when left untreated or unresolved can feel debilitating. Anxiety is a clinical issue when the feelings of stress or states of anxiety continue to occur when the cause of anxiety (or ‘stressor’) has passed and happen for a certain period.
Anxiety as a clinical condition includes symptoms such as short breaths, fast heart palpitations, sweaty palms, racing thoughts, overthinking about the future (‘what if?’), appetite changes, avoidance, sleep disturbance, restlessness and feeling fidgety, irritability, tight, tense muscles, reassurance seeking and self-doubt.
Anxiety as a clinical condition impacts on day-to-day, work, school, social and interpersonal functioning. We all get anxious from time-to-time and is a natural emotional state. Anxiety as a clinical condition, however, occurs when the anxious states aren’t easily controlled or don’t pass on their own accord. Anxiety is the most common mental health concern and one in three people in Australia experience anxiety.
There are different kinds of anxiety conditions:
Generalised anxiety: Generalised anxiety is a concern when worry states are happening daily and the worry is about general matters and has occurred consistently for two weeks. The anxiety is uncontrollable and excessive.
Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is a concern when fear feels like terror and is a ‘false alarm’. That is, feelings of intense sweating, dizziness, trembling, shaking, feeling faint and a strong urge to escape from a sense of danger when there is no physical danger or harm present. Panic attacks can happen without an obvious or without any trigger at all and feel terrifying. Panic Disorder is a condition marked by recurring panic attacks.
Social anxiety: Social anxiety is a concern when anxiety presents itself in social settings. Everyone gets a little anxious in new social settings, meeting new people or before giving a presentation or public talk. However, social anxiety as a clinical concern is more than this. It is when anxious feelings feel overwhelming and difficult to manage, which can happen when thinking about a social situation or remembering a past social situation. Social anxiety can present itself when feeling anxious when being the centre of attention, talking to people in authority, talking in front of people, giving presentations, parties and social gatherings, and being watched when completing work, eating or drinking. Social anxiety is characterised by consistent worry about what others think of them and commonly leads to avoidance of attending social events or avoidance of the social anxiety trigger.
Phobias: Phobias are a concern when a person feels very fearful about an object or situation and may go to extreme lengths to avoid the particular fear due to the exaggeration of its danger. The fears are out of proportion to its actual threat to danger. People are aware the fears are not in proportion, however, feel as though the feelings are not controllable or manageable and can be triggered by the mere thought or sight (e.g. on TV). Common phobias are fear of flying, spiders, snakes and heights.
Health anxiety: Health anxiety is a concern when there is an experience of believing that there may be a threat to your health which creates anxiety. It is a clinical concern when it is disproportionate, excessive, persistent, results in unhelpful behaviours such as avoidance, checking or constant reassurance seeking from medical professionals and impacts on your day-to-day life. Health anxiety is characterised by the coping responses to a real or perceived health condition.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a clinical concern when there are obsessive or recurring thoughts or compulsions (behaviours) that are carried out in order to alleviate the anxiety or distress and become a vicious cycle. OCD is very commonly underpinned by a sense of shame which maintains the cycle of OCD. OCD is accompanied by rigid thoughts OCD can present itself via cleanliness, washing hands, symmetry, counting, hoarding, concerns around safety, repeated checking behaviours (ie. doors, stove tops, electrical appliances), sexual issues (ie. a sense of disgust), and religious/moral concerns (ie. rituals to pray or undertake a religious-based ritual impeding on day-to-day life).