Anxiety is far more common than most people think – in fact it’s experienced by 1 in 4 people at some point in their life – but far too many people don’t seek help. This is partly because it’s normal to feel anxious in reaction to stressful situations, like demanding work deadlines or family stress, so it can be difficult to differentiate between normal anxiety and problem anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety you feel in response to a stressful situation will be more intense than would typically be expected or your anxiety might hang around for some time after, even once the stressful situation has resolved. It’s also not uncommon for people to experience anxious feelings without their being a clear trigger or cause. These tend to be indicators of problem anxiety.

Regardless of whether you meet criteria for a diagnosable anxiety disorder, if anxiety affects you on a regular basis and if it interferes with your enjoyment of life it may be worthwhile seeking advice from a clinical psychologist.

Click here for more information about what you can do to manage your anxiety.

Generalised Anxiety and Worry

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterised by excessive and persistent anxiety and worry across a range of different domains. For example, someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder might worry about being judged negatively by others, something bad happening to a loved one, not being able to meet financial commitments, or health issues. Worry is usually future oriented and about events that are relatively unlikely to occur and while most people will say that they recognise that their worry is irrational, when anxiety takes over, it makes it seem as though future catastrophes are likely, if not certain.

What Are The Symptoms Of Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

The main symptom of Generalised Anxiety Disorder is persistent and uncontrollable worry, but other symptoms include:

  • Concentration problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness and feeling on edge
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Disturbed appetite

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety is an anxiety disorder that makes people worry about doing something embarrassing and being negatively judged by others. While most people feel nervous before social situations that involve evaluation – like a job interview or meeting new people – people with Social Anxiety feel intense fear fear, so much so that they experience physical symptoms of anxiety like a racing heart beat, sweaty palms, a tight chest, or nausea.

What Are The Symptoms Of Social Anxiety?

The main symptom of Social Anxiety is a fear of social situations. Other signs are:

  • Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in social situations
  • A fear of being negatively judged by others
  • A fear of doing something embarrassing in social situations
  • A fear of others noticing physical symptoms of social anxiety
  • Worry and anxiety in the days, weeks, or months leading up to a feared social situation
  • A pre-occupation with evaluating past social interactions
  • Self-criticism and negativity reflecting on past social interactions
  • Making excuses to avoid or delay social situations
  • Needing to plan in advance how to cope with social situations

Because of their anxiety, people with social anxiety might avoid social situations, find it hard to be assertive, not be able to perform to the best of their ability, and find it hard to build personal and professional relationships.

Specific Phobia

A phobia is an intense (usually irrational) fear of a specific object, situation, or person. Phobias are actually quite common but because some feared objects can be avoided (for example snakes if you live in the city) many people live with their phobia and never seek treatment.

What Are Common Phobias?

Common phobias in adults include:

  • Arachnophobia (a fear of spiders)
  • Ophidiophobia (a fear of snakes)
  • Acrophobia (a fear of heights)
  • Claustrophobia (a fear of having no escape)
  • Cynophobia (a fear of dogs)
  • Trypanophobia (a fear of injections)
  • Pteromerhanophobia (a fear of flying)


How Can I Tell If I Have A Phobia?

When exposed to a feared object or situation, people with phobias experience intense anxiety, which is often accompanied by strong physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chills or hot flushes

While most people are aware their phobia is excessive and irrational, they find it hard to control their anxiety when they’re forced to face the feared object or situation.

Panic Disorder

A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety that is accompanied by strong physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chills or hot flushes


I Get Panic Attacks – Do I Have Panic Disorder?

Panic attacks can be a symptom of any anxiety disorder and people who experience panic attacks don’t necessarily have panic disorder. Symptoms of Panic Disorder are:

  • Recurrent panic attacks
  • Fear of having future panic attacks
  • Fear that panic attacks indicate an undiagnosed illness
  • Avoidance of places linked to previous panic attacks
  • Avoidance of activities that trigger physical symptoms that mimic a panic attack (e.g. exercise)
  • Reassurance seeking (e.g. repeated medical tests, needing to have someone close by ‘just in case’)


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (or OCD) is an anxiety disorder associated with unwanted and intrusive thoughts or mental images (obsessions) and repetitive rituals (compulsions).

What Are Obsessions?

Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts or images usually about negative or catastrophic events. Common obsessions are:

  • Repeated thoughts about contamination or illness
  • Self-harm impulses or impulses to hurt others
  • Self-doubt (e.g. Did I turn the iron off? Did I just hit someone with the car?)
  • Sexual thoughts or images
  • An overpowering desire to have things in a specific order
  • An intense need to hold onto items or to hoard unneeded objects


What Are Compulsions?

Compulsions are performed to relieve the anxiety and worry that accompanies obsessions, or to prevent a feared outcome, such as illness. Compulsions are distressing and time consuming, and can interfere with day to day routines and living. OCD can manifest in a variety of different ways, but some of the most common compulsions are:

  • Cleaning and washing compulsions
  • Checking compulsions
  • Repeating and counting compulsions
  • Ordering compulsions
  • Hoarding, saving, and collecting compulsions
  • Mental rituals to neutralise thoughts
  • Compulsive praying