What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an uncomfortable inner feeling of fear or imminent disaster. Most of us experience some temporary degree of anxiety in our lives, sometimes with just cause and at other times without. It can be a common normal human reaction to stress, and being anxious over appropriate things may help to make us more responsible, caring people. Some people, however, are constantly anxious to the extent that it is abnormal and interferes with their lives. Severe cases of anxiety can lead to panic attacks or hyperventilation.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can vary enormously from feeling tense and tired to panic attacks. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing.
  • Apprehension: ‘something awful will happen’ 
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension/headache 
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing 
  • Sweating
  • Trembling 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Flare-up of an illness (e.g. dermatitis, asthma) 
  • Sexual problems

What are the Risk Factors? 

Various physical illnesses—such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, asthma and perhaps cancer—can be related to persistent stress and anxiety. It may aggravate a drug problem such as smoking and drinking excessively. It can cause a breakdown in relationships and work performance. It can lead to the serious disorder of depression. Because an overactive thyroid can mimic an anxiety state, it is important not to overlook it.

What is the treatment?

  • Self-help

 It is best to avoid drugs if possible and to look at factors in your lifestyle that cause you stress and anxiety and modify or remove them (if possible). Be on the lookout for solutions. Examples are changing jobs and keeping away from people or situations that upset you. Sometimes confronting people and talking things over will help. Follow a healthy lifestyle based on good nutrition, exercise, recreational activity and moderation or abstinence from the harmful CATS—caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and social drugs. 

  • Special advice 

Be less of a perfectionist: do not be a slave to the clock; do not bottle things up; stop feeling guilty; approve of yourself and others; express yourself and your anger. Resolve all personal conflicts. Make friends and be happy. Keep a positive outlook on life and be moderate and less intense in your activities. Seek a balance of activities, such as recreation, meditation, reading, rest, exercise and family/social activities.

  • Relaxation

Learn to relax your mind and body: seek out special relaxation programs such as yoga and meditation. Make a commitment to yourself to spend some time every day practicing relaxation. About 20 minutes twice a day is ideal, but you might want to start with only 10 minutes. 

  1. Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed but remain alert and awake if you can. Focus your mind on the different muscle groups in your body, starting at the forehead and slowly going down to the toes. Relax the muscles as much as you can.
  2. Pay attention to your breathing: listen to the sound of your breath for the next few minutes. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. 
  3. Next, begin to repeat the word ‘relax’ silently in your mind at your own pace. When other thoughts distract you, calmly return to the word ‘relax’. 
  4. Just ‘let go’: this is a quiet time for yourself, in which the stresses in body and mind are balanced or reduced.
  • Counselling

 Your doctor will counsel you to help you cope with your fear and stress. This may include behavior therapy, which will help you learn to confront these fears, or cognitive behavioral therapy, which will teach you how to identify, evaluate, control, and modify your negative fearful thoughts and behaviors. 

  • Medication

Our Psychiatrist at Westminster Ortho Med Clinic will recommend tranquilizers only as a last resort or to help you cope with a very stressful temporary period when your anxiety is severe, and you cannot cope without extra help. Tranquilizers can be very effective if used sensibly and for short periods.


  • Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Hyperion, NewYork, 1997. 
  • Richard Carlson & Wayne Dyer, You Can be Happy No Matter What, Amazon, New York, 1999. 
  • Ainslie Meares, Life Without Stress, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 1991. 
  • Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Living, Vermilion, London, 1996.

Disclaimer: All contents on this site are for general information and in no circumstances information be substituted for professional advice from the relevant healthcare professional, Writer does not take responsibility of any damage done by the misuse or use of the information.