Think you might be living with anxiety? How to spot the signs

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, affecting around 1 in 4
people at some point in their life. Everyone experiences feelings of worry or nervousness
from time to time. But for people living with an anxiety disorder, anxious feelings can have
a significant impact on day-to-day life. In this guide we talk about how to know if you have
anxiety, what the signs and symptoms are and when and how you should ask for help.

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. It can feel like a churning feeling in your stomach, shortness of breath or a racing heart rate.

Feelings of anxiety are often accompanied by feelings of intense worry or fear, and may leave you feeling helpless or overwhelmed.

Everyone experiences anxious feelings from time to time. For example, when preparing for a job interview, giving a speech or experiencing big changes in your life. But for some people, the anxious feelings don't go away.

Anxiety can become a problem when you're experiencing symptoms a lot of the time, even about small things, so much so that you can't control the anxiety or find it hard to cope.

An anxiety disorder can impact your ability to do everyday tasks such as going to work, keeping up with studies or visiting particular places.

Types of anxiety

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – feeling anxious most of the time for a period of 6 months or longer. Anxious feelings may be about a range of things, such as health, money or work.
  • Social anxiety – an intense fear of being embarrassed or criticised in certain situations, such as giving a speech, eating in public or doing small talk with colleagues at work. Social anxiety may cause you to avoid social situations, places or circumstances.
  • Specific phobias – feeling very fearful about a particular situation or object. You may find yourself going to big lengths to avoid the specific phobia, such as insects, injections, planes or confined spaces.
  • Panic disorder – experiencing sudden panic attacks on a regular basis. Panic attacks are intense and overwhelming episodes of anxiety, usually accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain and sweating.

Anxiety symptoms can also be present in other mental health conditions such as:

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – People living with OCD may experience unwelcome thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours that are hard or impossible to control.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety that happens after a traumatic or stressful event, or if you've experienced trauma over a long time.

How to know if you have anxiety

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by a mental health professional. During the diagnosis, they might ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your day-to-day life.

The symptoms of anxiety can be physical, psychological and behavioural. People living with an anxiety disorder experience a range of different symptoms that affect their day to day lives.

The physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Restlessness or feeling 'on edge'
  • Tense muscles
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Stomach ache or discomfort in the stomach
  • Dry mouth or feeling thirsty all the time
  • Troubles with sleeping

Psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Catastrophising, believing your situation is worse than it is or thinking the worst outcome will happen
  • Obsessive thinking, focusing on your worries too much
  • Feeling out of control, helpless or overwhelmed
  • A racing mind or trouble 'switching off'
  • Trouble focusing or remembering things

Behavioural symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Avoiding situations that make you feel anxious
  • Finding it hard to sit still or stay calm
  • Having trouble keeping up with work, friendships and home responsibilities
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope

When to get help

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. It can be difficult to tell the difference between feeling worried or nervous and living with an anxiety disorder. However, if you're experiencing anxiety symptoms and feel like you can't get on top of them, it's important to reach out for help.

You should see your doctor when:

  • Your anxiety symptoms are affecting your day to day life, for example making it hard to go certain places or do certain activities.
  • Your symptoms aren't going away. If you've been experiencing anxiety symptoms every day for a couple of weeks, you should seek help.
  • Your anxiety is distressing you, is hard to control or feels overwhelming.
  • You have other health concerns. Anxiety symptoms can be linked to other health conditions. Your doctor can help you get treatment that addresses your overall health.
  • You're using substances to help you cope with your anxiety.
  • You're experiencing suicidal thoughts or self harm. Seek help immediately. Call Lifeline 13 11 14.

Support to manage anxiety

Anxiety disorders are treatable and you can recover from them. If you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms, it's important to get help as soon as possible. With the right support, you'll be able to better cope with your anxiety and take steps towards recovery.

How to know if you have anxiety:

  • Speaking to your GP is a good first step.
  • They can recommend you to mental health professionals such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  • You can also speak to a counsellor on a mental health helpline such as Beyond Blue, Reach Out Australia and Lifeline.

If your anxiety is making it hard to find a job or stay in work, you can get support from a disability employment assistance provider such as APM. We can help you overcome barriers you might be facing, access workplace adjustments and work towards your employment goals.

For further information about living and working with anxiety, read our guide to jobs for people with anxiety.

Supporting job seekers with anxiety

APM is one of Australia's leading providers of employment services for people with anxiety.

We believe everyone is capable of work. If you're living with anxiety and want to find a job, we’re here to help.

APM delivers the Disability Employment Services program in over 500 locations across Australia.

Our committed and experienced employment consultants want to hear your story. They want to focus on you, not your anxiety.

By getting to know you, they can get a clearer picture of where you're at and find solutions to manage or overcome your challenges.

We’re interested in your abilities, your strengths and what you want to accomplish.

With over 25 years' experience helping people find and stay in employment, we’ve seen first-hand the value, health benefits and independence a secure job can bring.

We’re committed to helping people with anxiety and depression reach their goals and improve their lives. Register now to begin your employment journey.

APM Disability Employment Services participant Jess at work

Sharon | 54 | Hand injury

"It's given me my self-
esteem back"

Chanay | 22 | Hearing impairment

"I was so excited, I couldn't
wait to get started"

Shannon | 33 | Down syndrome


Your personal job plan

APM helps job seekers success in their search with tailored job support and guidance.

Identify your strengths

  • It's important to identify and communicate your strengths to potential employers and we understand that many individuals with anxiety have unique strengths that can be valuable in the workforce.
  • At APM, we have a team of experienced career consultants who can help you to identify your strengths and them to suitable job opportunities.
  • Our goal is to help you find a job that suits your skills and interests, and we are committed to supporting you throughout the entire process.

Building a job around you

  • Explore realistic job options where you can succeed
  • Develop a personal strategy that includes job searches, resumes and interviews
  • Discuss your support needs with your employer
  • Look at any requirements for equipment or workplace modifications to help you perform a specific job
  • Consider what support you might need when you start working


APM works with Centrelink and the government to deliver Disability Employment Services.

When you register with APM, we check your eligibility for the program and help you get started.

We guide you through the Centrelink process and your initial assessment which decides your capacity for employment and suitability for the program.

Then we set your first appointment with a dedicated APM Employment Consultant who will spend time getting to know you, understanding the challenges you face, and setting up a plan on how you can achieve your goals.

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4 steps to making a positive change in
your life



Register with us and we'll
be in touch in the next
couple of days to discuss.



Meet your dedicated
Employment Consultant
at your nearest APM


Talk to

Discuss your disability or
health condition, and
employment needs.



Your employment journey

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Our support doesn't
stop when you start

We make your transition into your new role as smooth as possible and help you deal with any problems that might arise early on.

Our committed employment consultants spend time helping you settle into your new workplace and assist with any on-the-job training where required.

We'll work with you to develop a support plan which is tailored to your circumstances and the needs of your employer.

We'll support you for the first six months of employment in a manner that best suits you.

Should you require further support beyond the first six months of work, we’ll discuss the available options with you.

Our service is funded by the Australian Government to help you achieve your employment goals.

We aim to help you reach a good level of independence and enjoy a successful, productive life at work, at no cost to you or your employer.


Other advice that may help you find a job

The ultimate guide on how to get a job with anxiety

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living with anxiety. Read our guide on the best tips
and tools to help you look for work with more

Top 3 benefits of work for people with anxiety

If you are living with anxiety you might feel there are no jobs available to you. Read the top 3 benefits of work for people with anxiety, to see the many advantages of being employed.

Fulfilling and rewarding jobs for people with anxiety

Anxiety doesn't prevent you from having a fulfilling career. Read our guide to finding a fulfilling & rewarding job when you have anxiety.