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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is anxiety?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia.beyondblue is a bipartisan initiative of … View Profile

    While everyone feels anxious from time to time, some people experience these feelings so often and/or so strongly that it can affect their everyday lives.

    Often people confuse anxiety disorders with stress. Stress is a normal reaction to a situation where a person feels under pressure. For example, it's common for people to feel stressed or uptight when meeting sitting exams, work deadlines or speaking in front of a group of people. However, for some people these feelings happen for no apparent reason, are ongoing, or continue after the stressful event has passed.

  • Marcia Costello

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years experience in working with adults, adolescents, children, couples and families. I work by meeting you where … View Profile

    Anxiety refers to an inner autonomic experience of arousal. If a person is facing a situation which is thought of as a threat, then the reaction of the person is to instinctively engage in “flight, fight or freeze,” behaviour. This is a natural response which has great survival value. In this situation a person may be aware of their thoughts and judgement about the level of threat or it may be “automatic.” If the level of arousal continues and appears to be “out of context with the situation,” it is experienced as anxiety. People report breathing faster, having rapid thoughts, experiencing heart palpitations and have trouble making decisions, connecting with others or performing to their capacity. The threat may be related to paricular experiences such as fear of flying, insects, spiders pub lic places etc. (phobias) Alternatively it may be when a person is under pressure to perform or in close relationships. The treatment focusses on identifying the situation, level of threat, inner experience of arousal and the types of thoughts which go along with this experience. There is good research  to support the effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy approaches, which include breathing / meditation exercises, arousal reduction approaches, thought stopping and thought replacement / affirmation and visualization strategies. Sometimes the level of arousal is high and a combination of medication and psychological strategies are the most effective treatment option.

  • 2


    Stephen Tsousis


    Stephen for over 30yrs continues to study,experiment and explore a multidisciplinary approach to Psychotherapy.Know Yourself -is his motto.Stress, Anxiety & Depression (SAD ) are major … View Profile

    What is Anxiety?

     A question we can answer somewhat more fully from a multidisciplinary psychological counselling/therapeutic approach which complements the advice regarding the nature of anxiety and the understandings of its management such as we read on the Healthshare site.

    Like most things  Anxiety is a two edged sword which demands to be explored, listened too and generally entered into relationship with for there are many appropriate definitions from the last 100 years of counselling/psychotherapy regarding Anxiety.

    The Psychodynamic schools of Freud and Jung see Anxiety as a deep movement of life's energy often called libido, a libido which may well be tied to many levels of our beingness.
    Block it's natural flow and expressions in our individual/collective lives and all manner of trouble comes for both individual and society.

    Neuroses is its expression and for the psychodynamic methodology it is also a source of sacredness misapplied and misunderstood. 

    Anxiety,stress and frustrations are intimately involved.

    For the Existentialists- Anxiety is a given fact of our human lives which will always be present.
    At best we can explore it and relate its drive of fear to the one big fear we all hold, the fear of death. Finding meaning and purpose in it is the call.

    The Humanistic models propose  eg. Perls Gestalt as “the Gap between now and then”- this suggests that again apprehension  and fear are connected.
    Applying humanistic principles such as the Rogerian approach offers acceptance, free of judgement and humane relationship as a tool for understanding anxiety which is I think at the core of all our mental, moral and ethical decisions.
    Many humanistic counselling approaches explore the dynamics of the family as the primary source of fearful anxiety.

    The roots of the family dynamics and the denial/repressive psychological principles which each counsellor faces within themselves and encountered in our clients is essentially Freudian.

    Commonly used Cognitive Schools of Therapy focus on the changing of thoughts, mindsets and attitudes which generate the wrong sort of feelings and their addictive and habitual behaviours which now in their psychopathology send clients to their therapists.

    The Transpersonal models of Psychology hearken from deeper places which are amplified in the Jungian/Psychosynthesis models that what is going on with presenting anxieties is to be welcomed and courted for these anxieties are a language of Soul and an itimate relationship with Soul is the cure in itself.

    As one can now briefly see that there are many approaches to the management of Anxiety and all hold a valid approach.

    Anxiety is also a response of fear which is triggered off as a stressful reponse for both good or ill.

    The fear calls for us to respond appropriately by these  flying ….FFFs…Fear, feint, freeze, flee or if still left alive fight.

    Anxiety like stress is hardwired and even if the stress is pleasant eg. Olympians at the starting block ready to take flight driven by their fears of both loss/victory- the anxiety implicit in this Stress is still wearing upon the human constitution.

    It was the work of Hans Selye, during the 50s who was one of the pioneers of the Stress/Anxiety mechanisms that discovered the Stress Response and its medical wear and tear upon the body whether it was normal stress, positive stress(eustress) or negative stress (dystress). Stressful anxieties leads inevitably to breakdowns at many levels and layers of Health.

    Anxiety keeps us awake at night, it fills our minds with repeating pattern of thoughts and actions which disturb us and call us to appropriately enter in relationship with it, fighting it, denying it, repressing it and only medicating it only- invites Anxiety to roar and pounce in even more uninvited ways.

    Anxieties can make us sick- they can set off panic attacks and all sorts of syndromes.
    Anxiety reminds us that we are still very much alive in our suffering even if one of our symptoms is depression.

    Anxiety is a voice to pay attention to what's not working in our lives and for many the complexes of so called pathology are set even deeper as we do anything else but face this crippling debility 
    and heed it's language for anxiety is in its essence a call for real change from Fear to Courage from stuckedness to greater liberties and from rigidities to more levels of openness.

     If we learn to view Anxiety as an ally- it has much to teach us for our own and collective good.

  • I am a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist who specialises in Adult ADHD, Jungian Psychotherapy, and the Psychological Medicine aspects of Chronic Pain conditions. View Profile

    Many patients who struggle with Lifelong/Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) struggle with agitation, restlessness, feeling tense and uptight, and may complain they cannot settle their thoughts, may be preoccupied and irritable, may have trouble sleeping, may be figety, as well as offer the obvious "can't concentrate" symptom. 

    Unfortunately many of these patients are told that this is "anxiety" and forevermore become caught up in vaguely helpful treatments for "Anxiety" rather than being appropriately referred for an assessment of possible ADD/ADHD, and the necessary, definitive treatment. 

    Clinicians must remember that when a patient says "I suffer anxiety", the patient may simply be using the term that was previously, inaccurately, given to them. The priority is to thoroughly assess what the patient's actual subjective experience is before imposing an inaccurate diagnosis and inappropriate management plan. This is especially important with possible Lifelong ADD/ADHD patients who struggle to find words to actually describe their emotional experience. 

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