What is anxiety?

Tension and anxiety are common problems.  About one tenth of the population every year will see their doctor because they feel tense or anxious.  In the past doctors have traditionally prescribed drugs for such problems, but over the last few years research has shown that there are more effective ways of treating anxiety such as a therapeutic approach which includes gaining insight into negative thought and behaviour patterns and teaching you how to cope by developing strategies for more positive outcomes, and thus having more influence over your thoughts and feelings and behaviour.vcm_s_kf_repr_832x624

Are you experiencing anxiety?

We all experience anxiety at different levels.  Anxiety can serve you well when there is danger and may keep you safe.  However, we can also experience anxiety when there is no cause or reason to feel anxious to a higher level or degree.

Symptoms of anxiety are found in many disorders but can also occur in everyday life quite suddenly after a trauma, a loss, a life adjustment, a difficult relationship or issues at work and many more everyday difficulties that can occur at any time.

Anxiety may have both psychological and physical symptoms.  Anxiety disorders can be categorized into 3 categories as follows:

1)  Generalised anxiety (where the symptoms are continuous but may come and go to a degree).

2)  Phobic anxiety disorders (where the anxiety is irregular, and happnes only in certain circumstances), and,

3)  Panic disorder (where the anxiety is irregular and unrelated to any particular circumstance.

In summary the psychological symptoms and physical symptoms can be some or more of the following:

Psychological arousal:

  • Fearful anticipation.
  • Irritability.
  • Sensitivity to noise.
  • Restlessness.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Worrying thought.

Autonomic arousal:


  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Tummy discomfort.
  • Excessive wind.
  • Frequent loose motions.


  • Constriction in chest.
  • Difficulty inhaling.


  • Palpitations.
  • Discomfort in chest.
  • Awareness of missed heart beats.


  • Frequent or urgent micturition (urinate).
  • Failure of erection.
  • Menstrual discomfort.
  • Amenorrhea.

Muscle tension

  • Tremor.
  • Headache.
  • Aching muscles.


  • Dizziness.
  • Tingling in the extremities.
  • Feeling breathless

Sleep disturbance

  • Insomnia.
  • Night terrors.

The above symptoms can be symptoms of anxiety but should always be checked out by a medical professional to rule out any medical condition.

Above information taken from:  Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, Part 1, Fourth Edition, 2002.

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