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Self-Help for Anxiety

Anxiety is an umbrella term for feelings of fear, nervousness, apprehensiveness, or worry. Everybody gets anxious at times and some anxiety actually helps us to function well, but anxiety can become a problem when:

  • It happens too often
  • It goes on for a long time
  • It stops us from doing things that we want to do

Why Is Having Some Anxiety A Good Thing?

Imagine never being anxious or nervous: how would you know how to take care of yourself? How would you know not to run across a busy road? Or to mind your footing when walking along the edge of a cliff? Or to be cautious when approaching a potentially dangerous animal? Feelings of anxiety are there to guide us to take care of ourselves.

Some people suffering from anxiety want to get rid of their anxiety completely. Although this might sound attractive it would not be a sensible plan. The graph below shows why having some anxiety is a good thing.

The relationship between anxiety and performance

Figure: The relationship between anxiety and performance follows an inverted ‘u’ shape

What Types Of Anxiety Are There?

Psychologists make a distinction between different types of anxiety ‘disorder’. Each is characterized by a particular type of fear.

Type of Anxiety Description
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and worry People with GAD report excessive worry about non-specific life events such as health, finances, work, or relationships. The amount of worry is normally out of proportion to the actual danger. Learn more about GAD
Health anxiety People with health anxiety are preoccupied with having or acquiring a serious illness. They frequently seek reassurance about their health but fail to feel reassured. Learn more about health anxiety
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) A person with OCD might have thoughts or images which are intrusive (obsessions), and may feel compelled to carry out actions to relieve the accompanying anxiety (compulsions). Learn more about OCD
Panic attacks and panic disorder People who suffer from panic experience sudden feelings of terror and doom which may seem to occur ‘out of the blue’. Attacks are typically fairly short-lived but can be re-triggered and last for longer periods. Lean more about panic attacks and panic disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) PTSD follows a traumatic life event where the individual felt that their life or bodily integrity was in danger, or witnessed something similar. As well as an ongoing sense of threat that lasts beyond the end of the actual danger, PTSD is accompanied by vivid memories of the event replaying in the person’s mind. Learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder
Social anxiety disorder (Social phobia) People with social phobia are afraid that other people will think badly of them (fear of negative evaluation) and so they take steps to prevent this from happening. Learn more about social anxiety
Specific phobia People with a phobia are afraid of a specific object, animal, or situation. They might know that their fear is irrational or out of proportion, but will nevertheless try to avoid the feared object or situation.