We can all get stressed or anxious sometimes. Worried or afraid of something happening, or obsessed about something happening in a certain way - so you're no exception.

A bit of stress is fine,  sometimes it can help get things done. What’s not OK is when the anxiety gets so absolutely overwhelming that it stops you from doing things and makes you feel totally miserable. Having an anxiety disorder means that this response is causing you more problems than good.

For lots of people with an anxiety disorder, a common symptom is having lots of worried thoughts in your head which you know are unhelpful (or even silly) but are hard to stop. These thoughts, which are often negative, keep replaying in your mind, and it just makes the anxiety or fear get worse. Anxiety disorder can also make you react more quickly or more intensely to situations. It even causes physical symptoms so strong people feel like they might have a heart attack. 

It’s not the same for everyone, but here are some of the common signs and symptoms. Different types of anxiety need different types of treatments. For mild anxiety self-help techniques can be really helpful. But for more severe anxiety, you’ll need some help from the pros – they’ve got powerful tools like therapy and medication.

Anxiety can get so bad you can feel that it's not worth going on, or that everyone would be better off without you. If you’re feeling this way, you need to get help right now.

There are different types of anxiety disorders too. It helps to know which one you’re dealing with.

Generalised Anxiety is when you feel anxious and worry heaps about everyday things like school, mahi/work, friendships or health. You could be really hard on yourself about being perfect, fitting in and doing everything super well. Or you could be worried about more extreme events like earthquakes or someone dying. Whatever it is, if this excessive worry gets in the way of your life and goes on for more than six months it could be a generalised anxiety disorder.

Another common type of anxiety disorder is Social Anxiety. This can take hold when you meet new people, go to parties, hang out in big groups or have to talk in class. Your fear of embarrassing yourself or being made fun of can be so intense you’ll start avoiding these situations and not even want to go out.  Some people might drink or use drugs a lot to try to cope with those situations.

Phobias are about something specific - like spiders, injections, flying or being in enclosed spaces. These might sound harmless (and they often are) but for the person with the phobia it’s a nightmare. If you’re experiencing a phobia you’ll probably start avoiding certain situations and that gets in the way of living your life.

Panic Disorder is when feelings of anxiety become so overwhelming it can affect you physically. You might shake, faint or even think you’re having a heart attack.  If you suffer from panic disorder you can start fearing having a panic attack, which can feed your anxiety even more. And you’ll find yourself doing everything you can to avoid it ever happening again.

With anxiety you can lose confidence and start feeling really down. If it’s been going on for more than a few weeks you should watch out for depression as well.

Sometimes you can hear voices. It might feel like your mind is playing tricks on you and you’re worried about what’s going on. Sometimes there’s a simple explanation for voices – they might be pretty common in your culture or in your church. And what some people think is a voice is actually their own thoughts. But if weird experiences are messing with you, you might want to look at this info about psychosis.

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Anxiety is really common and it doesn’t have to be a big issue in your life. Managing an anxiety disorder can take time and you’ll have some good and bad days, but dealing with, or even overcoming, an anxiety disorder is definitely possible.

Take this quick self-help test to see how anxiety may be affecting your life, or check out some small things you can do about it below.