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What is anxiety?

Symptoms of anxiety include physical discomfort such as shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations, blushing, pins and needles in arms and legs, numbness, vagueness, difficulties concentrating/ focussing and muscle tension including in the chest and neck regions. It often affects sleep and other biological functions such as appetite and libido. Thinking is dominated by the prospect of future negative events such as physical danger, potential embarrassment or harm to others. Given that anxiety is physically and emotionally uncomfortable, people often begin avoiding the things that make them anxious (situations, people, thoughts or objects). Avoidance appears to work in the short term but often leads to the fear remaining in the long run.

How common is anxiety?

Results from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing indicate that 14.4% or 2.3 million adult Australians suffer from an anxiety disorder in any 12 month period. Over the last decade, this is an increase of over 4.5%.

Mild anxiety is a necessary part of the daily human experience and can often help motivate us to take action when needed, particularly when we are in threatening situations. However, when anxiety is extreme and persistent it can be lead to problems with functioning at work and/or in relationships. When anxiety is debilitating in nature, we refer to it as an Anxiety Disorder.

What types of anxiety disorders are there?

Anxiety disorders can be broken down into areas based on the focus of the fear. They include:

Helping yourself

Relevant services that specialise in anxiety disorders include:

The Emotional Health Clinic (formerly known as the Macquarie University Anxiety Research Unit; This is a University-based research clinic that provides evidence-based treatment in group and individual formats.

Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD)

Techniques for managing stress may also be of benefit, which includes the following:

  • Learn and practise relaxation techniques
  • Understand how important physical activity is for good mental health
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Maintain social contact
  • Be physically active
  • Reduce alcohol and other drugs

Getting professional help

If you, or someone that you know, is in need of additional assistance, the best person to speak to is your GP. They may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The following services may also be of assistance:

Your local community health centre

Your local hospital