When we are in situations which cause stress, it is normal to feel anxious. In some situations, stress can help us to react, get things done and keep ourselves safe. However, there are several situations which can evoke high intense feelings of fear, the root of anxiety. There are different types of anxiety disorders some of which include: generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.

It is important to make a distinction between stress, nervousness and anxiety as the intervention required to deal with such issues will be different. When we need to make big decisions and be in situations which create change, we can feel nervous and stressed as we do not know what to expect and what comes next. However, after some time or when the situation has passed, we feel that we can cope and adapt to the new situations. Sometimes, these intense feelings of worry, stress and nervousness do not pass and develop into anxiety.

When a person has anxiety, they are likely to experience both physical and emotional/psychological symptoms. The different anxiety disorders share features of excessive fear, anxiety and related behavioural disturbances (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The difference between these disorders is in the objects or situations that lead the person to experience fear, anxiety or avoidance behaviour.

Some common physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • excessive sweating
  • stomach-ache

Some common emotional/psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling constantly ‘on edge’
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • feelings of apprehension

When a person has anxiety, the source that is causing the person to feel anxious can be known for example, in the case of phobia. In such cases the person learns specific techniques to cope with the source of anxiety. In other situations, the reasons triggering anxiety may be unknown and this may intensify the feelings of anxiety.

If you or a person that you know has anxiety do not be afraid to speak up and seek help. Anxiety is a treatable disorder and professionals such as psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors can help you to deal with it and feel better.

Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on marilyn@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Publisher.