See also:     depression     bipolarity

what is

“I feel stressed and anxious” — how often do we hear people say this in our everyday lives? And for good reason. There’s no shortage of stressors around.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to have a sleepless night before a big presentation, draw a blank during an exam, or feel your heart racing before meeting someone for the first time. 

These are things we’ve all experienced, and are all familiar with.

But sometimes the feeling is so overpowering that you find yourself stuck. All you seem to see ahead of you is a huge, flashing “DANGER” sign. You feel paralyzed. All you want to do is turn back.

This is called anxiety.

It is an excessive, inordinate or repeated fear. Not the fear that protects you from real or likely dangers. No. It’s the kind that causes you to suffer. The kind that has your stomach tied up in knots.

Anxiety has you in its grip. You feel powerless, so overwhlemed that you’re no longer able to function in your daily life.  

Understanding it puts you on the right path.

Discover the workshop on anxiety



what are the most common anxiety disorders? 

Understanding that you live with an anxiety disorder is the first step. The second is knowing which anxiety disorder you’re living with. Maybe you’ve already been diagnosed, or maybe you haven’t.

there are 5 main anxiety disorders:

social anxiety

(sometimes called social phobia)

Generally, if you live with social anxiety, you feel intense, persistent fear in one or more social or “performance” situations, for example, eating with a group, talking to strangers or speaking in front of an audience. The anxiety stems from a fear of being judged, ridiculed or humiliated. Of course, anyone can feel uncomfortable in certain situations, but social phobia is far more intense and overwhelming.

specific phobia

Perhaps you or someone you know has a phobia of spiders, airplanes, blood or heights. Specific phobia is an intense, unreasonable and persistent fear caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Any of these will cause an immediate anxious reaction, which can sometimes be so strong as to cause a panic attack.

generalized anxiety

When you live with generalized anxiety, you worry chronically, uncontrollably and disproportionately about everyday things or minor events such as work or your performance at school. People who suffer from this disorder tend to imagine imminent catastrophes.

panic disorder

A panic attack can happen anywhere, at any time. This is a sudden, acute fear where you feel like a catastrophe is just around the corner, in turn prompting physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, etc. However, for this to qualify as “panic disorder”, the attacks must be recurrent, unexpected and accompanied by persistent fear, worry about having more panic attacks, or dread of their consequences, such as a fear of losing control.


A fear or anxiety triggered when you are exposed to (or anticipate being exposed to) certain situations. These are primarily places where it would be hard to escape or get help if you experienced panic symptoms, for example, public transportation, movie theatres, crowds, line-ups, bridges or any place where you’re alone outside your home. With agoraphobia, you will tend to avoid these situations as much as possible.

several factors may heighten the risks of developing an anxiety disorder

They can be personal (genetics, temperament, personality, etc.), environmental (conflicted relationships, stressful events, etc.) or associated with your life story (difficult situations during childhood, etc.).



what are the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder?


social anxiety

The signs of social anxiety often show up as discomfort and unpleasant sensations when you find yourself in social situations, situations in which you are being observed or performance situations.

The anxiety is disproportionate to the actual threat that such situations represent. In these moments, you fear that your actions will be judged or that your symptoms will be perceived negatively, and therefore that others will feel offended or reject you, for example.

You may be subjected to these situations—resulting in intense anxiety—or you may try to avoid them as much as possible, leading to isolation and profound loneliness. Your suffering may be such that you can no longer function normally in your daily, professional or social life.

When living with social anxiety, you may also have some of the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Blushing
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Digestive problems
  • Nausea
  • Mutism
  • Trouble speaking (rapid or irregular speech rate)
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Panic attacks
 specific phobia

Are you suffering from a fear of a specific object or situation? Does the fear have a significant impact on one or more areas of your life? You may be living with a specific phobia.

This anxiety is disproportionate to the actual threat that the object or situation represents. The fear is so intense that you may actively avoid the object of the phobia. Specific phobia can cause significant suffering and affect your daily functioning, for example in relationships, at work or at school.

Specific phobias can be learned through observation—for example, repeated warnings from parents about certain dangers—or as a result of trauma or a negative experience.

When you live with a specific phobia, you may experience some of the following symptoms when confronting or sometimes even anticipating the object of your phobia:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Fear of dying or losing control (fear of “going crazy”)
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Choking sensation
  • Sense of non-reality or being detached from yourself
generalized anxiety

Generalized anxiety is characterized by a significant amount of anxiety that you have been experiencing for at least 6 months, excessively and uncontrollably, in multiple areas of your life, to the point of interfering with your day-to-day functioning or causing significant distress.

The anxiety is disproportionate to the actual risk that the thing you are anticipating will happen, or to its likely impact.

Generalized anxiety can be associated with a variety of everyday circumstances, such as work, finances, health, housework or worries about your family or children. A person living with generalized anxiety will often feel the impact of the disorder in several of these spheres. 

When you live with generalized anxiety, you experience several of the following symptoms in addition to excessive worrying:

  • Restlessness
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating / memory lapses
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances
panic disorder

If you have had several unexpected panic attacks and have experienced a dread of having panic attacks following one or more panic episodes, for at least a month, you may be living with panic disorder.

In some cases, people with panic disorder don’t fear the panic attacks themselves, but rather their consequences (having a heart attack, losing control of themselves, etc.). The attacks can also be accompanied by a change in behaviour, for example, avoiding situations where you have experienced a panic attack before. The panic disorder may begin or intensify if you experience a breakup or lose someone you love.

A panic attack is a sudden episode of acute fear, accompanied by at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensation of suffocating or shortness of breath
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Dizziness, unsteadiness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Sense of non-reality or being detached from yourself
  • Fear of dying or losing control (fear of “going crazy”)
  • Fear of dying

Agoraphobia means that, for at least six months, you have been living with fear or significant anxiety when confronted with (or anticipating being confronted with) two or more of the following situations or places: public transportation, open spaces, confined spaces, line-ups, crowds or being alone outside your home. If you dread or avoid such situations for fear of being unable to escape or find help if you experience panic or incapacitating symptoms, you may well be living with agoraphobia.

With agoraphobia, the anxiety is intense and overblown compared to the actual danger. This anxiety causes you distress or negatively affects your daily functioning. You may avoid the situation you fear, or you may be subjected to it (but feel intense anxiety) and sometimes ask someone to go with you on outings.

In some cases, agoraphobia can be accompanied by a diagnosis of panic disorder.

how do I live
with anxiety?

It is possible to live with anxiety and still have a good quality of life. One way to do this is to have the right tools to guide you in your daily behavioural choices. Take back control of your mental health with self-management.

Discover self-management

how can I help
a loved one who is living with anxiety?

It isn’t always easy to know what to do. But there are a few strategies to help a loved one regain control over their mental health, without compromising your own.

Find out more

how can Relief
help you live
with anxiety? 

We offer a self-management workshop to help you live with anxiety. The workshop includes strategies, tools and exercises to help you adopt behaviours in order to reduce your symptoms, identify warning signs and prevent relapses.

Explore our workshops