Anxiety is a psychological state characterized by a sense of worry or anticipation over a future concern. It is normal to experience some degree of anxiety, but it can become a problem when it is excessive compared to the object or event of concern or when it interferes with a person’s daily life.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Catastrophising
  • Feelings of panic
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing too quickly (i.e. hyperventilation)
  • Trembling
  • Disturbed sleep (e.g. insomnia)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding situations that provoke anxiety

Anxiety disorders include

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): excessive anxiety about various aspects of one’s life (e.g. school, work, social activities) that is difficult to control and lasts for six months or more.
  • Social anxiety disorder (SDA; sometimes called social phobia): excessive anxiety relating to social situations (e.g. parties, meeting new people) where there is the possibility of scrutiny by others.
  • Panic disorder: involves unexpected and recurrent panic attacks and the fear of having further attacks or behaviours aimed at avoiding future attacks. Panic attacks involve an overwhelming sense of fear, a racing heart, trembling, hyperventilation, and sweating.