Anxiety and Panic

General Anxiety

A small amount of anxiety is both helpful and normal. It can be a response to an internal physiological warning system which prepares you to ‘fight, fly away or freeze’ in a dangerous situation. It can also even help you perform better, for example in an exam, by sharpening your mind.

Anxiety can become a problem when it is out of proportion to its cause, has gone on too long or is associated with excessive fear, worry or distress

Physiological responses to anxiety can include restlessness, escalating or racing heart rate or even a panic attack, sweating and shaking or trembling. The opposite can also occur: a shutting down of the body, being brought to a complete standstill. Psychological responses to anxiety include the following:

• loss of confidence or self-esteem
• feeling stuck, paralysed, unable to act, helpless
• panicking
• feeling restless
• worrying about things too much    
• unable to think clearly or to focus
• trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
• over-sleeping and staying in bed most of the day
• unable to eat or eating too much

If some of those responses sound familiar, you may consider speaking to a psychotherapist about your anxiety


Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can be characterised by a strong and persistent fear of embarrassment in social or professional situations. Social anxiety is related to your sense of self-worth and how you believe others consider you.

Social anxiety escalates when the avoidance and fear of the social or professional situation interferes with your daily routine or your capacity to function in your occupation. You may feel you have no social skills or you may be underachieving at school or work. You may be reluctant to sit for an exam, go for a job interview or speak in public.

Social anxiety can also decrease your social circle and by so doing exclude you from more fulfilling relationships. You may feel cut off from your social support network and even experience difficulty in dating situations.

Like general anxiety some of the physiological responses to social anxiety can include trembling, sweating, dizziness, blushing, a sinking feeling in the stomach, tension, dry throat, restlessness, escalating or racing heart rate or even a panic attack. The opposite can also occur: a shutting down of the body, being brought to a complete standstill. Psychological responses to social anxiety include:

• fear of meeting new people
• feelings of disempowerment and low self esteem, inferiority
• fear of criticism, rejection
• a sense that you are being observed and evaluated negatively
• concern you will embarrass yourself or feel humiliated
• an overwhelming feeling of wanting to escape

If some of those responses sound familiar, you may consider speaking to a psychotherapist about your social anxiety.


Panic Attacks

A panic attack occurs when your response to a situation escalates rapidly from an appropriate response to intense fear and discomfort and then to excessive, uncontrollable or overwhelming terror.

Some of the symptoms can include:

• increased heart rate, chest pain
• hyperventilating or shortness of breath
• sweating, hot flushes, numbness, tingling
• trembling, shaking
• nausea, dizziness or feeling faint    
• fear of losing control, impending doom or even dying
• fear of choking
• feelings of detachment and unreality

If you experience some of the above you may be having panic attacks and might consider getting help to manage this with a trained psychotherapist.