Victoria Counselling for Anxiety

About Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is combination of unpleasant physical feelings and thoughts that are typically associated with uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Anxiety is normal – everyone experiences anxiety at times. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when on a rollercoaster or before a job interview.

Anxiety can become a problem when we react as if there is danger when there is no real danger. It's like having an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in your body! We DO NOT want to get rid of the alarm (or eliminate anxiety) because it protects us from danger. We want to fix it (i.e., bring the anxiety down to a more manageable level) so it works properly for us!

Most people do not recognize their anxiety for what it is, and instead think there is something "wrong" with them. Some become preoccupied with the physical symptoms (e.g. stomach aches, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, etc.), whereas others may think they are odd, weak, or even going crazy! Unfortunately, these thoughts only make people feel even more anxious and self-conscious.

How Anxiety Works

Anxiety affects your body, thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, there are three parts to anxiety:

  1. physical symptoms; how our body responds
  2. thoughts; what we say to ourselves
  3. behaviours; what we do or our actions

Recognizing Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can cause many sensations in your body. These sensations are called the "alarm reaction", which takes place when the body's natural Alarm System (the "fight-flight-freeze" response) has been activated. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and stomach upset
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Tight or painful chest
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Unreality or bright vision
  • Feeling of heavy legs

You can learn to identify the physical signs of anxiety by asking yourself: "What happens when I'm anxious? Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?" For example, when you feel anxious, you may get butterflies in your stomach, sweat a lot, breathe heavily, and feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Recognizing Anxious Thoughts

Anxiety also affects how we think and typically these thoughts involve a fear of something bad happening.

Effectively managing negative emotions involves identifying negative thinking and replacing it with realistic and balanced thinking. Because our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel, changing our unhelpful thoughts to realistic or helpful ones is a key to feeling better. “Realistic thinking” means looking at yourself, others, and the world in a balanced and fair way, without being overly negative or positive.

Read our article on How to Develop Balanced Thinking »

Recognizing Anxious Behaviours

Anxiety feels very uncomfortable. We also think we are in danger. Because of these strong experiences, we tend to escape or avoid anxiety-provoking situations/activities/people.

It is essential to identify situations that you avoid. To aid in this, answers the following:

  • If you wake up tomorrow morning and all your anxiety had magically disappeared, what would you do?
  • How would you act?
  • How would someone close to you know you weren't anxious?

Finish the following sentences:

  • My anxiety stops me from ...
  • When I am not anxious, I will be able to ...

Once you are able to understand and recognize anxiety, you will be better prepared to move on to the next stage - learning how to manage anxiety with anxiety counselling!

FREE THERAPY CONSULTATION - Determine if my approach fits for you.

Some Facts about Anxiety

  • Anxiety is normal.
    Everyone experiences anxiety at times. It is normal to feel anxious in the appropriate situations, like before a job interview.
  • Anxiety is adaptive.
    It helps us deal with real danger (avoiding a speeding car) or to perform at our best (motivates us to prepare for a big presentation).
  • Anxiety is not dangerous.
    Anxiety may feel uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous or harmful to you.
  • Anxiety is short-lived.
    Anxiety is temporary and it will eventually decrease! Likely faster than you think.
  • Anxiety is mostly anonymous.
    Most people cannot tell when you are anxious because it does not show on your face.
  • Anxiety can become a problem.
    Anxiety is a problem when our body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger. It's like having an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in your body!
  • Anxiety problems are common.
    One-in-ten adults suffer from anxiety problems.

Anxiety Disorders

  • Panic Disorder
    This is characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks, followed by at least one month of worry about having additional attacks and/or fear of something bad happening as a result of the panic attack, such as going crazy, losing control, or dying.
  • Specific Phobias
    Phobias are excessive and unreasonable fears of an object or situation, which are beyond voluntary control. Common phobias include fear of spiders, rodents, snakes, flying, heights, injections, and situations where escape is difficult.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
    These individuals have an intense fear of social and/or performance situations, and excessive concern about social embarrassment or humiliation. They may avoid social activities like going to parties, performing or speaking in front of others, dating, and may have difficulty obtaining employment.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    This is characterised by excessive and uncontrollable worry about daily life events, such as potential future negative events, minor matters, someone significant becoming ill or dying, work issues, and world events, such as natural disasters.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    Obsessions are unwanted ugly thoughts that create anxiety, and compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts in an effort to reduce the anxiety. Some compulsions may include repeated hand-washing, checking, tapping, or mental routines (such as counting backwards from 100). An example of an intrusive thought is "I might get sick and die from touching a bathroom door".
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    This anxiety disorder can develop after being directly involved, witnessing, or hearing about a frightening traumatic event. Symptoms include upsetting vivid memories, nightmares, flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of reminders.

What is your anxiety level?
Please answer each of the following items that best describe how much you have experienced each symptoms over the last 2 weeks.

Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always


Scores 28 or less.
Anxiety appears not to pose a big problem for you and your life. The manner in which you are responding to daily functioning, stresses and anxiety is relatively appropriate and is working well for you. Continue to cope in the manner that is constructive and productive.

Scores between 29-56.
Anxiety likely occurs with some frequency and is creating a level of discomfort that is of some concern for you. The level of anxiety is beginning to be an obstacle in your life, in that it is starting to get in the way of daily functioning and enjoyment. You may need to deliberately consider doing things differently in order to cope with anxiety and stress in a more constructive manner. Consider developing specific coping skills in efforts to reduce and/or deal with your level of anxiety and improve the quality of your life.

Scores 57 or more.
This level of anxiety suggests that it is a relatively consistent and persistent characteristic and feature in your life. You likely feel that anxiety has a dominant role in your life, one which may be creating some notable difficulties and challenges personally, emotionally, professionally and socially. Given this degree of influence, anxiety will require a focused and intentional plan to deal and cope with it. Developing specifically designed, multi-pronged coping skills will assist in improving the quality of your life.

FREE THERAPY CONSULTATION - Determine if my approach fits for you.