What is anxiety?

Here we explore some common causes and symptoms of anxiety, including where to get support.


Feeling anxious is a natural response when you’re under pressure. For example, if you have a job interview or an upcoming exam. You may be worried and feel nervous and uneasy. It is unpleasant, but those feelings usually pass once the event is over.

However, for some people it does not go away as easily, and it can surface when you are doing everyday activities that aren’t typically stressful. You may start to avoid certain situations because you are too worried. You may also have physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, upset stomach, nausea, and a racing heartbeat. Without the right support or coping strategies, anxiety can start to affect your personal relationships, disrupt your work life and impact your overall wellbeing.

How common is anxiety?

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia, on average one in five men will experience anxiety in their lifetime.[1] If this is you, you are certainly not alone. Every year around 14% of Australians are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. [2] Some cases are short-term and can be treated quite easily, while other cases are long-lasting and may be diagnosed as a disorder by a healthcare professional and require deeper support. These include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia, agoraphobia and panic disorder.


What are the symptoms to look out for?

Anxiety can show up through a range of symptoms that can be classified into five main categories: psychological, physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional. Let’s look at some examples of what these can look and feel like.

  1. Psychological Symptoms
    • Excessive worry
    • Restlessness or feeling “on edge”
    • Irritability
    • Fear or apprehension.
  2. Physical Symptoms
    • Fatigue, even after adequate sleep
    • Sleep disturbances (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep)
    • Muscle tension or pain
    • Headaches
    • Digestive problems (Upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea)
    • Heart palpitations or increased heart rate.
  3. Behavioral Symptoms
    • Avoidance 
    • Compulsive behaviors
    • Substance misuse.
  4. Cognitive Symptoms
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Rumination or compulsive thoughts
    • Memory problems or lack or focus
    • Imagining the worst possible outcomes.
  5. Emotional Symptoms
    • Panic attacks, fear, and unease
    • Mood swings
    • Feeling overwhelmed


Anxiety can be caused by a number of factors

This could be an ongoing stressful situation or experience such as a traumatic event, relationship issues, financial stress or losing a loved one. Genetics may also play role. If you have a family history of anxiety, it can increase your likelihood of experiencing it – however this is not definite. Chronic illness or long-term physical health problems that cause ongoing worry and stress can trigger anxiety as well.

It is also important to note that sometimes you won’t be able to identify the cause of the anxiety, but you can still seek support and develop tools and strategies to manage the symptoms.


Getting support for anxiety

There are a range of treatments and tools available to help manage symptoms of anxiety. A good first step is to make an appointment with your GP to discuss how you are feeling and they will be able to help plan for what to do next. This may be by recommending some lifestyle changes to reduce your stress levels – such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, mindfulness relaxation exercises or reducing caffeine/alcohol. Or it might be by referring you onto a specialist such as a psychologist or counsellor for ongoing support. Prescribed medications are sometimes used as well.


Everyone is different, but you can get help. Our professional counsellors can help you work through your anxiety and come up with ways to cope.

Call to speak to one of our MensLine Australia counsellors on 1300 78 99 78 or access free video and online counselling. We’re here to help 24/7.



  1. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National survey of mental health and wellbeing: Summary of results, 2007

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