Anxiety is a natural and usually short-lived reaction to a stressful situation, associated with feelings of worry, nervousness or apprehension. It typically occurs in new, unfamiliar or challenging situations, where the person might not feel up to the task, or where the outcome is uncertain. The first day of school, sitting an exam, speaking in front of an audience, or attending a job interview are all situations in which most people feel some anxiety. For people with anxiety disorders, however, anxious thoughts, feelings, or physical symptoms are severe, upsetting, frequent, and interrupt daily life.

Key Points

While there is no single known cause of anxiety disorders, there are a number of risk factors or triggers that may contribute. These differ between the different anxiety disorders, but in general, the following factors may play a role.

Certain anxiety disorders appear to have a genetic component, with some anxiety disorders running in families.

Some anxiety disorders might have a basis in how the brain processes and responds to stress and physical arousal, and how the body releases stress hormones such as adrenalin.

Thinking style
Patterns of thinking characterised by anticipating the worst, persistent negative self-talk, difficulty accepting uncertainty and low self-esteem are often linked to anxiety. Sensitivity to your body’s physical responses, such as increased heart rate, and misinterpreting these physical symptoms as indicating something catastrophic might also increase the risk of developing certain anxiety disorders.

Coping strategies
Unhelpful coping strategies, such as a tendency to avoid situations that trigger the person’s anxiety, rather than facing such situations, can increase the risk for developing an anxiety disorder.

Stressful life events
Stressful events such as a marriage breakdown, work or school deadlines, and financial hardship can act as a trigger for the development of an anxiety disorder. Early life stress and trauma can also increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder later in life.


Common symptoms of anxiety include:

Seeking Help

If anxiety is affecting your day-to-day life, a psychologist may be able to help. Psychologists are highly trained and qualified professionals, skilled in diagnosing and treating a range of mental health concerns, including anxiety disorders. A psychologist can help you to identify and manage the factors that contribute to your anxiety.

If you are experiencing similar problems, please call us.