Understand what anxiety is, how it can be experienced, and what you can do to feel better.

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Understanding anxiety

While feeling anxious is a normal response to stressful situations, anxiety is when anxious feelings such as worry, dread, and fear stick around or show up unexpectedly, and make it difficult for you to go about everyday life.

Typically, anxiety is experienced over something that might happen in the near or distant future. However, if you don't know why you're experiencing anxiety, it could be due to something in your past.

Experiencing anxiety from time to time is a normal and healthy response to stress. However, anxiety can be classed as a mental health condition if the symptoms you experience prevent you from doing things like daily tasks, going to work, socialising, having healthy relationships, and making time for self-care.

Why do we feel anxious?

Even though they might feel uncomfortable, stress and anxiety are important ways we keep ourselves safe.

When we're in situations that feel threatening or dangerous, our brain automatically triggers our body's 'fight, flight or freeze' response, which releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

This response can:

  • Make us more alert
  • Increase oxygen flow to our muscles so we can respond more quickly
  • Reduce our perception of pain, allowing us to focus on the moment.

It's normal to experience anxiety before, during, and after stressful situations. However, there are a few common causes that may make you experience anxiety more frequently and intensely.

  • How common is anxiety?

    If you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone.

    Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, with 1 in 4 people (1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men) experiencing anxiety at some stage in their life.

    With the right support, recovery is possible for everyone.

When is anxiety a concern?

You may want to speak to a health professional if:

  • Your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last a long time
  • Your fears or worries are bigger than the stressor itself
  • You avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • Your worries feel distressing or are hard to control
  • Your anxiety continues after the stressor has passed
  • You find it hard to live your life to the fullest or do things you enjoy.

No matter how overwhelming your symptoms might feel, all types of anxiety are treatable.

I can't always explain why I feel anxious. Sometimes, my body just seems to react to something before I get a chance to tell it everything is okay.

If you'd like more information on anxiety, you can:

You can download, save, and print our anxiety factsheet by clicking here.

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