About one in every ten young Australians aged 18-25 will have
problems with anxiety. For young people aged 13-17, the
figure is about one in every twenty five.
'Anxiety' is like 'worry'. It's an unpleasant emotion that most
people feel at some time when they're faced with challenges. Mild
anxiety, like just before a sporting event or an exam, can help
people perform at their best. But when anxiety becomes more
intense, causes distress, lasts for a longer time and interferes
with daily living, then it's a problem.
Physical feelings of anxiety include a faster heart rate, faster
breathing, muscle tension, sweating, shaking, and 'butterflies in
the stomach'. In a 'panic attack', these symptoms are very
severe. Other common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Persistent worrying and excessive fears
- Being unable to relax
- Avoiding challenging situations
- Excessive shyness
- Being socially isolated or withdrawn
- Trouble concentrating and paying attention
- Poor sleep
- Problems with work, social or family life
Types of anxiety disorder
Some types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalised anxiety disorder: Lots of worry
about things, such as work, money, relationships
- Specific phobias: Intense fear of a particular
situation or object, like spiders or small spaces. This fear often
leads you to avoid the situation or object
- Panic disorder: Having panic attacks and worry
about having another panic attack
- Social phobia: Continuing, excessive fear of
being embarrassed in social situations, being judged badly by other
people, or being criticised or 'put down'
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):
Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, and compulsions are unwanted
actions that can result. A common obsession is worry about dirt or
contagious diseases. Common compulsions are hand-washing, counting
objects and arranging things in a specific pattern
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
Symptoms can include 'replaying' unwanted memories in your mind,
trouble sleeping, and checking for danger
Many young people with anxiety problems also have symptoms of
depression at the same time.
Some people with anxiety drink alcohol or take drugs to ease the
discomfort or to make them feel more confident. This can make
things worse in the long run, as it covers up the problem rather
than dealing with it.
Getting help for anxiety
Different types of anxiety disorder need slightly different
treatment. One approach, used for people with panic disorder,
social phobia and generalised anxiety disorder, is to talk about
how your thoughts influence your emotions. For some people,
medication is helpful as well.
- Tell your family and friends about your difficulties so they
can support you
- Try to eat healthily, exercise and find ways to relax by
listening to music, reading and doing activities that you
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs as they often make anxiety worse
in the long run and can lead to addiction problems
- Seek some help from a doctor, psychologist or counsellor
Helping someone with anxiety
A person with anxiety problems needs understanding and support.
Anxiety can be improved with treatment, so it's important that the
person gets professional help.
Be patient and listen to the person's fears and concerns, and take
them seriously. It's not just a matter of telling them to 'calm
down'- it's not that easy. Be prepared to seek help or support for
yourself as well if you need it.
For more information, and to find out how to get help, visit the
section of this website.
This information was produced in conjunction with ORYGEN