What is anxiety?
We all worry from time to time about a variety of things such as our relationships, studies, work, family, health, and our finances. Worrying can be beneficial in that it prompts us to take action – for example, if we were worried about our finances we would then look at ways to solve the problem.
Excessive worrying, however, is problematic. When we constantly focus on what might go wrong or what has gone wrong in the past, when worrying becomes constant, when it impacts on your daily life, and when it feels uncontrollable – these are all signs that worrying has become excessive.
This diagram shows how everyone worries to some extent (low, moderate, high). Excessive worry is likely to occur when we have a high frequency or intensity of worrying that is disruptive of our normal functioning.
Physiological signs include:
(may present together or alone in varying magnitudes)
- General uneasiness or tension (i.e. heightened arousal)
- Palpitations (i.e., unusually rapid heartbeats)
- Hyperventilation (i.e., difficulty getting your breath)
- Sweatiness; shakiness or weakness; dizziness; feelings of unreality, etc
The thoughts that usually accompany and are part of an anxiety state are apprehensive (of the "What if--?" variety), negative and often discouraging of appropriate action.
The anxious person's behaviour is therefore often characterised by avoidance, procrastination, and/or disorganisation and general lack of confidence.
Common types of anxiety
Social anxiety refers to anxiety surrounding interacting with other people. Social anxiety can be very restrictive, and can cause you significant problems at university as you have to give presentations, talk in tutorials, and do group work. Some other common features of social anxiety include:
Worrying about what people will think of you
Avoiding social situation (avoid, escape, drinking alcohol to make less threatening)
General anxiety refers to worry that may be excessive, hard to control, irrational, and disproportionate to the actual source of worry.
Video: Anxiety basics and how you can treat it.
- Centre for Clinical Intervention
- Reach Out!
- Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD)