Many talking to psychologist for anxiety using teleconferencing

Anxiety: what is it and how can you get help

What is anxiety?

Feeling stressed or worried is normal – no need to see a psychologist for anxiety just yet. However, if you feel stressed or worried for no reason, if you feel the same when the ‘obvious’ cause has gone, or if your sense of stress and worry persists a lot longer than usual (or worse, doesn’t go away), you might have anxiety.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Anxiety is very common. One quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime[i]. This article will educate you on the different types of anxiety, symptoms of anxiety and the common treatments.

Are there different types of anxiety?

Anxiety doesn’t come in one form. There are many different types of anxiety disorder, and you might find yourself experiencing symptoms of different types at any one time.

Below, we’ve given you an overview of some of the main types of anxiety, along with giving you a few of the defining characteristics of each.

Remember, self-diagnosing an anxiety disorder is never a good idea, which is why it’s vital to seek the support of a medical professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. This is especially true when there’s something stressful going on in your life, like if you’re going through a divorce.

If you have feelings of anxiety most days and you find yourself worrying about different things for six months or more, you might have generalised anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety:

It’s not unusual to feel shy or uncomfortable in social situations, especially if you’re meeting new people for the first time or attending a big event.

However, being outright scared of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated when you’re with people or out in public could be a sign of social anxiety.

Specific phobias

Everyone is scared of something, but phobias go beyond being scared or not wanting to do something. Phobias strong, and often irrational, fear of something that often poses no real danger.

For example, if you have nyctophobia – an extreme fear of the dark – you might find it extremely difficult to go to sleep without a light on, even with nothing to fear.

Panic disorder

A panic disorder involves sudden – often within a few minutes – and severe bouts of intense anxiety that can be difficult to gain control of.

You might also have shortness of breath and chest pain. If you’re having panic attacks for more than a month, you could have a panic disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

If you have obsessive compulsive disorder, you might experience invasive thoughts that can lead to anxiety. This is often followed by trying to “fix” the anxiety with particular behaviours or rituals.

For example, you might notice yourself having invasive thoughts that you need to organise a cupboard in a certain way. These thoughts often leave you feeling unable to settle unless you have performed the task.

Causes of anxiety

The causes of anxiety are varied. Most anxiety disorders are the result of a range of interlinked factors and influences from the environment around you.

Below, we’ve listed some of the most common causes of anxiety, which range from genetics – such as a parent suffering from anxiety – to things like stressful events.

Some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Family history – a parent suffers from anxiety
  • Illness – diabetes or thyroid disease can cause anxiety
  • Life events – starting a new job or a family member dying
  • Other mental health conditions – depression, PTSD
  • Stressful and traumatic events – being in a car crash, workplace near miss or serious injury
  • Substance use – using drugs or alcohol
  • Thinking style and personality – being a natural worrier

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

As we discussed before, different types of anxiety present different symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms that crop up across the various types of anxiety can be split into four categories: behaviour, thoughts, physical and feelings.


  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Procrastination
  • Avoidance


  • “Everything’s going wrong.”
  • “I might die.”
  • “I can’t handle the way I feel.”
  • “I can’t calm myself down.”
  • “I can’t focus on anything but my worries.”


  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sick
  • Pounding heart
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Stomach concerns
  • Twitches and trembles


  • Irritable
  • Tense and on edge
  • Nervous
  • Scared
  • Panicky
  • Very worried or afraid

Is there treatment for anxiety?

Treatments for anxiety vary. There are plenty of self-help methods you can use, but professional help is always a good route to take.

Seeing a psychologist for anxiety

There’s lots of ways a psychologist can help you with your anxiety. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to try to change unhelpful thoughts and build your skills to control your anxiety
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help you accept the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing
  • e-Therapy: following similar approaches like CBT above, e-Therapy take place online with your mobile phone, tablet or computer


In some cases, a medical practitioner may recommend medication in addition to psychological treatment. Remember, you should only be prescribed medication by a registered medical professional. Do not self-medicate. If you self-medicate, you run the risk of incorrect self-diagnosis, potential adverse reactions, worsening of the condition and more.

When should you see a psychologist for anxiety?

We all visit our dentist when we have a toothache. The same goes for our physical health and why we schedule appointments with our GP, gynaecologist, physio, chiro, dermatologist, naturopath… the list is endless. So why treat our mental health and wellbeing any differently?

Seeing a psychologist for anxiety is the first step towards dealing with what can prove to be an extremely disruptive condition. Depending on the type of anxiety you have, an anxiety psychologist can support you in a number of ways depending on what your condition looks like. Our psychologists throughout Australia have experience with a wide range of mental health conditions, including anxiety.

If you’ve been stressed or worried for a long time, or longer than normal, then let’s talk about it. Access Psych is here to support you. Call us on 1800 277 924 Email Website


Black Dog Institute

Black Dog Institute is a medical institute in Australia investigating mental health across the lifespan. Their website features the latest research, resources and support services for a range of mental health conditions. For more, visit

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue provide advice and support for anxiety, depression and suicide prevention. They also operate a free helpline. Telephone and online chat services are available 24/7. Phone 1300 224 363 or visit


Reachout is a mental health service for young people and their parents. The service provides self-help information, peer-support programs and referral tools designed to support young people with mental health concerns. For more, visit

For urgent support

If there’s an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call 000.

If you need someone to talk with now, call:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or chat online at
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

The information provided in this document is general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.

The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional. You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in this document.