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Worry, Anxiety, Panic

What is Worry, Anxiety, and Panic?

Anxiety Treatment and Counselling in Sydney and Balmain

Very common reasons for coming to see a psychologist are worry, anxiety and panic. The reason anxiety is so common is that we are all born with the capacity to become anxious - at heart, anxiety is a survival mechanism which is designed to save our lives. Sometimes, however, worries, anxiety and panic occur in situations which are not actually life threatening - for example, a person may experience panic symptoms in shopping centres, or begin to experience anxiety in crowded places.

When anxiety starts to impede your daily life, stop you from doing what you want or cause you physical pain - its time to get some help. 

If you find yourself suffering from anxiety, stress and panic attacks, we can help. Therapy sessions with a registered psychologist have been proven to be effective in helping loosen the grip anxiety has on people. At Treat Yourself Well, we seek to understand each one of you who comes in for help. 

Types of Anxiety

Physical Anxiety

Any threats that occur in day to day life (e.g., being chased by a large dog; being involved in a car accident; being pulled over by the police when driving) cause a series of changes to occur automatically in the body. Once the brain becomes aware of danger, hormones are released. The involuntary nervous system then sends signals to various parts of the body to prepare the body to 'fight' or to flee ('flight').


This response is called the 'fight-or-flight' response and is associated with the following physical and mental changes:

Symptoms associated with the fight-or-flight response

  • The mind becomes alert

  • Blood clotting ability increases, preparing for possible injury

  • Heart rate speeds up and blood pressure rises

  • Sweating increases to help cool the body

  • Blood is diverted to the muscles which tense ready for action

  • Digestion slows down

  • Saliva production decreases causing a dry mouth

  • Breathing rate speeds up - nostrils and air passages in lungs open wider to get in air more quickly

  • Liver releases sugar to provide quick energy

  • Sphincter muscles contract to close the openings of the bowel and bladder

  • Immune responses decrease (which is useful in the short-term to allow massive response to immediate threat, but can become harmful over a long period)

  • Fear and apprehension

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Restlessness

  • Cold and clammy hands

  • Hot flushes or chills

  • Feeling sick or nauseous

  • Butterflies in the stomach

The anxiety response is very good in dealing with physical threat, but it's not so good when we are dealing with psychological threat.


Reversal of the response can be produced using breathing control. While anti-anxiety medication will reduce anxiety, breathing control is the preferred method since individuals can use breathing control all their lives without any of the risks associated with anti-anxiety medication. Another way that the cycle can be interrupted is by preventing activation of the fight-or-flight response. Prevention involves attempting to reduce the stressful nature of life experiences. Stresses can be reduced with relaxation, slow breathing, or by learning how to solve problems more effectively.

Anxious Thinking

As well as being a physical response, anxiety is also characterised by a style of thinking which is threat related. Remember that when the fight-flight response is activated, the person's mind begins to think in a threat related way, that is, the brain scans the environment to see where the danger is. During anxious periods, people do not think in the same way that they do when they are relaxed. How can they, when their body is telling them that they are in mortal danger?

Anxious people have thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes which support the anxiety. For example, a person who experiences anxiety in enclosed places may think of going to the theatre in the following way "It'll be full of people. I won't be able to get out. I'll be trapped!"

Common Types of Anxiety Issues

A girl feeling sad

Panic Attacks

A panic attack is defined as a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in which 4 or more of the following symptoms develop abruptly and peak within 10 minutes

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

  • Feeling of choking

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Nausea or abdominal distress

  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light headed, or faint

  • Derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself)

  • Fear of losing control or going crazy

  • Fear of dying

  • Parasthesias (numbness or tingling sensation)

  • Chills or hot flushes

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Worry, Anxiety & Panic

Cognitive behaviour therapy for anxiety problems targets both the physical and the cognitive aspects of anxiety. It also targets the avoidance which so often occurs. Cognitive behaviour therapy is recognised as the most effective form of treatment for anxiety disorders. Cognitive behaviour therapy works - you do not have to live with the anxiety!

Treat Yourself Well Sydney offers clients individually tailored cognitive behavioural programs for the treatment of worry, anxiety and panic. These comprehensive programs include management of the fight-flight response through breathing control and relaxation techniques, as well as identifying and changing fear and anxiety producing thoughts. Treat Yourself Well Sydney treatment programs also target the avoidance often associated with anxiety. If you are suffering from an anxiety or worry problem, take heart - effective help is at hand. Life can be very different.

Want to find out more?

To learn more or to enquire about our Anxiety assessments, contact us at:, or give us a call on (02) 9555 4810.

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