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Anxiety is the heightened feeling of fear that we all experience when faced with threatening or difficult situations. It can help us to avoid dangerous situations, making us alert and give us the motivation to deal with problems. 

What causes anxiety?

Family history plays a part in increasing the likelihood that a person will develop anxiety disorders.  Trauma and stressful events, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce or changing jobs or schools may lead to anxiety disorders.  Anxiety may also become worse during periods of stress.  The use of and withdrawal from addictive substances, including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, can also exacerbate anxiety.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

People experience anxiety in different ways. Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Pounding heart / palpitations
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Difficult concentrating
  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Being easily startled

Anxiety may be accompanied by feelings of depression characterised by feeling down, loss of appetite and seeing the future as bleak and hopeless.

What help is available?

  • Talking it through with friends or family members may help. Try a friend or relative whom you trust and respect, and who is a good listener.
  • Support groups involve talking with people with similar problems can help as the experience is shared with people who understand what you are going through. They may be able to suggest ways of coping. These groups may focus on anxieties and phobias, or on other problems; for example, women's groups or bereavement groups. Sessions are usually held weekly.
  • Individual and group therapy is offered by therapists at the CCDU.
  • Medication prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner can also help. Consult a qualified medical practitioner in this regard.
  • You can also try self-help strategies to assist in managing your anxiety.

Can anxiety disorders be prevented?

Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented. However, there are some things thay you can do to control or lessen symptoms, including:

  • Reducing consumption of products that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that increase anxiety symptoms.
  • Exercise daily and consume a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Seek counselling and support after traumatic or disturbing experiences.

For additional information visit:  

Wits Student Crisis Line  0800 111 331 (24/7/365)