Paula Kruger

Clinical Psychotherapist & Counsellor


Experiencing anxiety symptoms and panic attacks

What does it mean to feel anxious for everyday life?

Experiencing anxiety can be a normal part of everyday life. Anxiety can be healthy, even though we have a racing heart (assuming no medical conditions!) Anxiety inducing events and social situations can include.

  • taking an exam
  • getting married
  • becoming a parent
  • getting divorced
  • changing jobs
  • coping with illness

As much as we may not like it, the discomfort of anxiety can be considered normal and even beneficial to us. (Note this is far removed from dealing with a panic disorder.)

For example, a certain degree of anxiety can be helpful. It can motivate you to study for an exam or finish your work project. Bizarrely, happy events like moving to a new home or celebrating an important milestone can bring up anxiety – all this is just part of being human.

Most people experience anxiety at different times in their lives. The level of anxiety changes intermittently and is expected based on specific events and or situations. 

We know it is out of control when we have avoidance behavior. Coupled with excessively worrying, the inability to concentrate or recall events may all be signs of problem anxiety. These symptoms can be so overwhelming as to cause family, work, and difficulties with our friendships.

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety signs and symptoms include the following:

  • increased biological arousal
  • negative feelings
  • negative thoughts 
  • the inward focus of your attention

Anxiety is normal in humans, reflecting our ability to think. Anxious feelings are mostly fear and apprehension. Anxious thoughts (or worrying) include expecting threats but seeing them as unpredictable and out of your control. 

Anxiety prompts you to focus on your reactions, distracting you from the task so that you allow anxiety to feed on itself.

What type of Anxiety

So, feelings of anxiety is a problem when it becomes overwhelming, then unmanageable, and it comes up unexpectedly.

People with anxiety disorders have a mental illness that can have can a huge impact on your life. The feeling is so uncomfortable, you may avoid going about your daily life in order to avoid the feeling. 

You may experience uncomfortable physical sensations and health problems. Many people say they know their anxiety isn’t based on reality, but they feel ‘trapped’ by their thoughts and feelings. Diagnosed anxiety disorders can be treated. It is important to seek help if you are concerned and require medical help.

My treatment method of working with anxiety is to identify the source of anxiety and gain self-awareness around the cause and with increased awareness. We learn through a step by step process the strategies to manage your life and reduce the anxiety that is diminishing the quality of your life. 

Normal Anxiety

  •       Is related to a normal situation or event
  •       Lasts only as long as it needs to
  •       Is proportional to the situation or problem
  •       Is a realistic response to a realistic situation or problem

Anxiety Disorder

  • Anxiety may affect you unexpectedly, or for no reason at all.
  • The anxiety response is debilitating, more than what is warranted.
  • Experience unrealistic anxiety, such as fearing hypothetical siutations that are divorced from reality.
  • Anxiety may last well past when the situation or problem has been dealt with.
  • Social anxiety disorder like in a social or performance situation.
  • The anxiety feels impossible to control.
  • Avoidance of a specific object or situation that they believe to trigger anxiety symptoms.

When it interferes with your day to day life

To differentiate between normal or an anxiety disorder. Many people feel a bit nervous about flying, which is a normal reaction. And when the time comes to travel for work, they can hop on the plane.

 Someone with an anxiety disorder may not be able to overcome the debilitating feeling and fly at all – even it is putting their job at risk.     

Common Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety?

Depression and anxiety may overlap, but depression involves reduced physiological arousal and a loss of good feelings. Because anxiety is unpleasant, it motivates you to cut it, but you can do this in helpful and unhelpful ways.

Many people experiencing a high level of anxiety can then spiral into a low mood or depression. Their negative thoughts, which become a self-defeating cycle and unhelpful belief structures, causes the person to feel bad.

While anxiety and depression involve unpleasant emotional feelings, the negative feeling associated with anxiety centres on the presence of fear and apprehension.

The negative feelings of depression tend to reflect an absence of positive feelings. Anxiety is associated with biological and psychological arousal in preparation for coping with the expected threat.

Depression is associated with biological slowing down and a reduction in activity.

While the thoughts in both states include ideas of helplessness, anxious thoughts focus on expected (if unpredictable) threats and your reactions to them.

Depressed thoughts focus on a more general sense of hopelessness about the future and lots of self-criticism and self-blame.

Of course, it is possible for someone to be both anxious and depressed and for elements of these two states to overlap.

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms

A general anxiety problem involves feeling anxious most of the time, for at least six months, because of excessive worrying about at least two major life areas. This general worrying distinguishes general anxiety from other anxiety problems.

It also shows itself in a number of physical symptoms and in being over-alert. Anti-anxiety drugs tend to not be helpful in the long run. Not only because of the risks associated with being highly addictive, but they also give only a small amount of anxiety relief.

To manage a general anxiety problem, you need to change negative thinking habits, learn to relax, and stop worrying about feeling anxious. If you have developed avoidance habits, it will help to tackle them as well. 

Generalized anxiety tends to permeate throughout your life, rather than being focused on a particular part of it as some anxiety problems, such as phobias or panic attacks, are. If you have general anxiety, you tend to feel anxious and tense all day, regardless of what situation you are in or what you are doing. 

Extreme social anxiety symptoms (like Agoraphobia) and Panic attacks

Panic is a sudden attack of intense fear, including physical symptoms. People with panic problems have strong biological alarm reactions and focus on them. Problems build when a panic occurs to false or learned alarms. Escape is a natural reaction to intense fear, or panic problems often involve situations where escape is difficult. 

A specific phobia like Agoraphobia is a fear of going into such situations or into situations in which help would not be available if panic occurs. It is really a fear of panic occurring away from support. Many agoraphobics depend on ‘safety signals’ to get by. It is quite a debilitating social phobia.

Some physical problems can mimic panic. Anti-anxiety drugs are not helpful for panic problems. Treating panic problems and agoraphobia centres on confronting your fears, aided by several coping skills and preferably with support.

Anxiety Counselling

I have been working with people for over 20 years who come for counselling feeling quite overwhelmed. They have a great fear that they are losing control of their lives as a result of their anxiety.

I can help you to understand the origins of your anxiety, how your thoughts and beliefs may be preventing you from living a productive and fulfilling life. You are not alone – anxiety is an extremely prevalent issue in our society. 

Anxiety Disorder is the most common mental health condition in Australia. Up to one-third of women and one-fifth of men will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. At this time, many will seek out counseling services, and in particular practitioners of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 

In my practice, I have helped many individuals who present with fear and anxiety, and I am here to support you. With a step by step collaborative process, I will teach you to manage the unhealthy level of anxiety that you are experiencing.

This will significantly improve your well-being and ultimately enable you to live a great life.