Learning about Anxiety Disorders

If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or your friend, relative or partner has, this is the best section for you to start browsing. Here you will find the latest information on how to make sense of anxiety. Below you will find a short summary of what anxiety is and to the left of this page is a menu detailing more specific information about the condition. Have a look at this first if you are new to understanding different forms of anxiety disorders.

If you are a carer: in addition to reading the material on anxiety produced in this section of the web site, you might also like to read information written specifically for carers and friends. If you have anxiety, browse through this section or have a look at the information on other mental illnesses to get a broader context. You can also go directly to the consumer section which deals with treatment and recovery processes. 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild uneasiness to intense fear. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and serves to improve performance. Clinical anxiety differs from everyday anxiety in its intensity and the degree to which it interferes with people’s lives. Anxiety is often associated with depression. The onset of anxiety disorders is usually in early to late adolescence.

While we all feel anxious from time to time and certain life events can create anxiety in our lives, these feelings are usually temporary and they can be brought under control. A typical example of this is the anxiety that can be experienced before an examination or a medical operation. People become anxious before their wedding day, going for a job interview, speaking in public, or worrying if they have enough money to cover the bills. These normal anxieties become a problem and are defined as a disorder when they become overwhelming and cannot be controlled easily and begin to interfere with how that individual can function. As a result, the person experiencing anxiety will feel nervous, ‘on edge’ and worried for much of the time in differing degrees. An anxiety disorder is more than just feeling stressed. It is a serious medical condition that may inhibit a person from engaging in day-to-day activities with ease. It can intervene with normal functioning and create extreme fear and stop people from getting on with their lives.

Anxiety is the most common mental condition experienced in Australia. About 10-14 per cent of the population will experience some form of anxiety disorder in any one year and it is almost inevitable that you will know someone who has experienced anxiety or displays the symptoms but has not sought help or advice. The condition seems to affect more women than men but it can emerge in all age groups including children, adolescents and the elderly.