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Recognising the subtle signs of anxiety

When it comes to one of the most common mental health conditions in Australia – anxiety – those affected often do not seek professional assistance because many do not recognise that the difficulties they are experiencing relate to anxiety and can be effectively treated.

Below we outlined some common, yet more subtle symptoms of anxiety.

If you find yourself experiencing these, it can be helpful to check-in with your regular GP or check-out ourTake-a-Test tool to see if one of our online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) courses could help.

#1. Feeling constantly tense, as if your body is bracing itself for impact.

Anxiety leads to a constant activation of our bodily defence mechanism – the fight-or-flight response, which can be helpful in highly stressful or life threatening situations, but tends to act as a “false alarm” when you are worried about something that might happen in the future.

Relaxation strategies are used in CBT to help you consciously switch off the fight-or-flight response and bring your mind back to the present moment.

#2. Having worst-case-scenario thoughts come to mind during mundane everyday situations.

We call this pattern of thinking ‘catastrophising’, which represents one of the thinking traps that keeps the cycle of anxiety and tension going.

‘Cognitive’ or thinking strategies are used in CBT to help you shift these thinking traps and calm anxious thoughts.

#3. Feeling compelled to do certain things “just in case”.

For example, feeling like you must always carry sunglasses or a bottle of water with you wherever you go; checking things repeatedly; or going the extra mile when it’s not necessary or needed.

We call these ‘safety behaviours’, which can make you feel better in the moment, but actually serve to maintain anxiety in the long term. Over time, you might find these behaviours tiring or frustrating, but feel uncomfortable when trying to do things differently.

‘Behavioural’ strategies are used in CBT to help you build confidence in facing challenging, uncomfortable, or uncertain situations.

#4. Having difficulties falling or staying asleep.

Anxiety and sleep difficulties often co-occur, but many don’t realise this. If you’ve had difficulties with your sleep for longer than 3 months and feel like anxiety might be an issue for you – check out our Insomnia and Anxiety Study which is currently recruiting participants.

If eligible to participate, you could gain access to a course of online treatment for free as part of the study.

You can read more about the signs and symptoms of anxiety, as well as the different online CBT courses we offer here.

Not sure how you feel?

Take a Test to Check Your Levels of Anxiety

You can check your levels of stress, anxiety, or low mood with our free and anonymous online Take-a-Test Tool. It will show you whether the way you’ve been feeling is within a healthy range and make suggestions on what you can do if not.

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