What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural human emotion that is characterised by sensations of concern or worry. Often, this reaction stems from a stressor, such as a difficult or foreign situation. The common signs and symptoms of anxiety may include restlessness, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, nausea, feeling numb or faint and inability to concentrate. For example, people may become apprehensive in situations such as taking a test or appearing for a job interview, public speaking or driving for the first time. For most people, the anxiety is not debilitating and lasts for a brief duration. However, some people have more serious symptoms of anxiety, or have anxiety disorders that disrupt their daily functioning. Examples of different forms of anxiety disorders are phobias (to specific situations or objects), panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How can a psychologist help?

A psychologist supports people to grow resilience and skills to better manage their problems. Other than anxiety, psychologists also work with people experiencing problems with depression, grief, trauma, anger, problems adjusting to a new situation (e.g. pain, injury or illness), eating disorders or sleep disorders, stress, behavioural issues and relationship problems. Psychologists may also diagnose anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.

How psychology might work with a person with anxiety or an anxiety disorder will depend on the person’s needs and the severity of their anxiety. While general counselling and psychological therapies are usually involved in treatment, interventions for anxiety centre on building strategies relevant to the person’s symptoms and specific anxiety disorder. As with most psychological treatment, therapy plans are highly specialised to suit the individual, so that they may better understand their situation/disorder and figure out what works best for the person to mitigate its impact.

While general relaxation or breathing techniques are often the foremost strategies taught to people with anxiety, more advanced cases (i.e. once an anxiety disorder has been diagnosed) commonly require therapies that are relevant to the particular disorder and its manifestation in the person. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a frequently utilised type of therapy that has been shown to benefit people with anxiety disorders. Essentially, CBT involves assisting the person to identify and adjust thoughts and behaviours that are counter-productive. Moreover, it also aims to teach the person to better deal with their anxiety symptoms. CBT usually relates to cultivating the individual to change their ways of thinking (negative thoughts), exposure therapy to focus on specific fears or phobias, improve their ability to problem-solve in a structured manner, and the use of meditation and relaxation techniques to augment their capacity to deal with distressing situations. Additionally, psychologists often incorporate mindfulness techniques in therapy (so the person gains more insight and becomes more accepting of their experiences) and may encourage the individual to make realistic changes to their lifestyle (e.g. eating healthier, increasing exercise, improving sleeping habits).

Finding a psychologist

Sydney is rife with psychological services that possess experienced psychologists that can help people with anxiety or anxiety disorders. Perhaps one of the most direct ways to access a psychologist is to gain a referral from a GP. Moreover, searching for services on the Internet would generate various options, and there are several depression and anxiety organisations nationwide. �i{�{ l{�: