Anxiety is a normal, healthy, and temporary psychological, physiological and behavioural state produced in relation to an anticipated threat within our environment that is either known or unknown such as taking an exam, giving a talk or presentation. With anxiety we tend to get the "what ifs" as we search for the potential danger. This is healthy as it can produce a beneficial response to a situation like keeping us focussed and on track in instances like studying for the exam, preparing well for a talk or presentation.
Although it may feel like it, anxiety is not fear. They both produce very similar physical responses in the body. The difference between anxiety and fear is that anxiety is the response to an anticipated threat that is known or unknown and fear is the response to a known, unavoidable danger that is life threatening.
The main function of both anxiety and fear is to act as a signal to trigger appropriate adaptive responses that enable us to adapt to the environment and/or survive.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia.
When anxiety is constant and intense it can be very debilitating and dysfunctional. It can interfere with the ability to cope successfully with various life challenges and/or stressful events, and alter body conditions (for example, forming ulcers). It can prevent us engaging in social situations, work or study. When we are anxious we tend to worry which normally helps an individual prepare for a perceived future threat and assist in helping us find a solution to the perceived threat. However, worry can become compulsive and people may find they feel they do not have control over their worry.
Physical symptoms of anxiety can include: a rapid heart rate, feeling nervous, restless or tense, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, goosebumps, dry mouth, tightness in the chest, trembling, feeling hot or sweating, upset stomach, butterflies in stomach, and lethargy.