Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Anxiety Disorder

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Everyone knows what it is like to feel anxious. Anxiety arouses you to action. It makes you study harder for that exam and keeps you on your toes when making a speech. In general it helps you cope.

But if you have an anxiety disorder, this normally helpful emotion can do just the opposite; it can keep you from coping and can disrupt your daily life.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with their own distinctive features.

Repeated episodes of acute fear that strike often and without warning.
Repeated unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviours that seem impossible to stop or control.
Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
There are a variety of phobias that may trigger extreme disabling irrational fear of some situation, event or thing that poses little or no danger.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder:
Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday events and activities; lasting at least six months.

What are the general symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

Often people with anxiety will experience tightness in their chest, a racing or pounding heart and a knot-pit in their stomach. Anxiety causes some people to sweat, get a headache and/ or to urinate.

An anxiety disorder may make you feel anxious most of the time, without any apparent reason. Or the anxious feelings may be so uncomfortable that to avoid them you may stop some everyday activities. Or you may have occasional bouts of anxiety so intense they terrify and immobilise you.

A person can experience more than one disorder and some may also experience depression with anxiety or have problems with alcohol and/or other drug misuse.

What causes Anxiety Disorders?

The causes are not fully understood. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every anxiety disorder and that the best form of treatment is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Family history and genetics also play a great apart in the greater likelihood of someone getting an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to anxiety.

How many people develop Anxiety Disorders?

About 3% of the population develop anxiety disorders. Women are affected more than men.

How is Anxiety treated?

Psychotherapy is recommended for someone with moderate to severe anxiety. Depending on the severity of the anxiety, medication may be used in combination with Psychotherapy. The prognosis for the recovery from anxiety is variable. With appropriate support, most people can deal with their symptoms successfully and get on with their lives again.

Who do I see about and Anxiety Disorder?

The first health professional to see is your G.P. He or she, if necessary, will make a referral to a more specialised mental health professional

The following websites provide information on Anxiety Disorder:

A useful NZ website with resource data on most mental illnesses including Anxiety Disorders.


An international website with data on most mental illnesses.



New Zealand Guidelines on Assessing and Treating Anxiety Disorders

An Australian charity helping people affected by mental illness


New Zealand website with information about phobias and other related illnesses


A site developed by Child & Adolescent Services, Taranaki Health, working with youth, covering many mental health issues.


Click here to download brochure on Anxiety

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Taranaki Mental Health Sector