1. Anxiety signs
    Do you think you know anxiety?
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  2. Get to know anxiety: Chest tightening
    One of the symptoms that I had was being unable to breathe deeply...so that was distressing.
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  3. Get to know anxiety: Hot and cold flushes
    One of the symptoms for me was hot and cold flushes...I was freezing and then I was sweating.
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  4. Get to know anxiety: Obsessive compulsive
    I started to become very worried about things like door knobs, and stoves, and power points.
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Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and, given we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in duration and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The type of anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning. While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:

  • Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
  • Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
  • Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life
These are just some of a number of symptoms that you might experience. If you've experienced any of these, check the more extensive list of symptoms common to the different types of anxiety conditions below. They're not designed to provide a diagnosis – for that you'll need to see a doctor – but they can be used as a guide.

Generalised anxiety disorder

For six months or more, on more days than not, have you:
  • felt very worried about a number of events or activities
  • found it hard to stop worrying
  • found that your anxiety made it difficult for you to do everyday activities (e.g. work, study, seeing friends and family)?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also experienced three or more of the following:
  • felt restless or on edge
  • felt easily tired
  • had difficulty concentrating
  • felt irritable
  • had muscle tension (e.g. sore jaw or back)
  • had trouble sleeping (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)?

If you have answered yes, you may be experiencing generalised anxiety disorder. 

Learn more about generalised anxiety disorder and treatment options

Phobias (specific)

Have you felt very nervous when faced with a specific object or situation? For example:
  • flying on an aeroplane
  • being exposed to heights
  • going near an animal
  • receiving an injection

Have you avoided a situation because of your phobia? For example, have you:

  • not gone to certain places
  • changed work patterns
  • avoided health check-ups
  • found it hard to go about your daily life (e.g. working, studying or seeing friends and family) because you are trying to avoid such situations?

If you have answered yes, you may be experiencing a specific phobia​.

Learn more about specific phobias and treatment options

Social phobia 

Have you felt very nervous or embarrassed when faced with social situations or events? For example:

  • meeting unfamiliar people
  • being observed (e.g. eating, drinking, talking on the phone or writing in front of others)
  • performing in front of others

Have you avoided a situation because of your phobia? For example, have you:

  • not gone to certain interactions or events
  • found it hard to go about your daily life (e.g. working, studying or seeing friends and family) because you are trying to avoid such situations?

If yes, you may be experiencing social phobia.​

Learn more about social phobia and treatment options

Panic disorder

Have you had a sudden surge of intense worry or fear during which you had four or more of the following symptoms:

  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • increased heart rate
  • short of breath
  • feeling like you are choking
  • feeling nauseous or having butterflies or pain in the stomach
  • dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • numb or tingly
  • derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalisation (feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings)
  • hot or cold flushes
  • scared of losing control or going crazy
  • scared of dying?

If you have felt more than four of the above symptoms, have you also: felt persistently worried for one month or more, of experiencing these feelings again, or changed your behaviour to try to avoid having panic attacks again? If yes, you may be experiencing panic disorder.

Learn more about panic disorder and treatment options

Anxiety conditions specific to children

Separation anxiety in children

Does your child have an excessive fear or worry about leaving you or other familiar people, which includes any three of the following behaviours over 4 weeks or more?

  • Distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from you.
  • Worry about you becoming sick, injured or dying.
  • Worry they might get lost or be separated from you.
  • Refuses to go out, away from home, to school, or elsewhere because of fear of separation.
  • Not wanting to be alone at home or in other settings.
  • Not wanting to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being near you.
  • Repeated nightmares about being separated.
  • Complains of feeling sick when away from you.

If this sounds familiar your child may be experiencing separation anxiety disorder. Talk to your GP for a referral to a child psychologist or other counsellors that specialise in assisting children with mental health conditions.

For more information visit beyondblue's BRAVE program, an interactive, online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. The programs are free, and provide ways for children and teenagers to better cope with their worries. There are also programs for parents.

Selective mutism in children

  • Does your child refuse to speak in certain social situations (e.g. at school) even though they can speak comfortably in other situation (e.g. at home)?
  • Has this been happening for at least a month?
  • Is this inferring with making friends or learning at school?

If this sounds familiar your child may be experiencing selective mutism. Talk to your GP for a referral to a child psychologist or other counsellors that specialise in assisting children with mental health conditions.

For more information visit beyondblue's BRAVE program, an interactive, online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. The programs are free, and provide ways for children and teenagers to better cope with their worries. There are also programs for parents.

 

Other conditions where anxiety is prominent

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Have you experienced or seen something that involved death, injury, torture or abuse and felt very scared or helpless?

Have you then experienced any of the following:

  • upsetting memories, flashbacks or dreams of the event?
  • feeling physically and psychologically distressed when something reminds you of the event

If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also experienced at least two of the following:

  • had trouble remembering important parts of the event
  • had very negative beliefs about yourself, others or the world
  • persistently blamed yourself or others for what happened
  • persistently felt negative, angry, guilty or ashamed
  • felt less interested in doing things you used to enjoy
  • feeling cut off from others
  • had trouble feeling positive emotions (e.g. love or excitement)

And have you experienced at least two of the following:

  • had difficulties sleeping (e.g. had bad dreams, or found it hard to fall or stay asleep)
  • felt easily angered or irritated
  • engaged in reckless or self-destructive behaviour
  • had trouble concentrating
  • felt on guard or vigilant
  • been easily startled?
If all these things have been happening for a month or more, you may be experiencing post traumatic stress disorder.
Learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment options

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Have you:
  • had repetitive thoughts or concerns that are not simply about real life problems (e.g. thoughts that you or people close to you will be harmed)
  • Done the same activity repeatedly and in a very ordered, precise and similar way each time e.g.:
    • constantly washing your hands or clothes, showering or brushing your teeth
    • constantly cleaning, tidying or rearranging things at home, at work or in the car in a very particular way
    • constantly checking that doors and windows are locked and/or appliances are turned off
  • felt relieved in the short term by doing these things, but soon felt the need to repeat them
  • recognised that these feelings, thoughts and behaviours were unreasonable
  • found that these thoughts or behaviours take up more than one hour a day and/or interfered with your normal routine (e.g. working, studying or seeing friends and family)?
Learn more about obsessive compulsive disorder and treatment options