About feeling anxious/fearful

Almost everyone feels stressed, worried, or anxious sometimes. However, if your anxiety or worry is so severe that it interferes with your ability to cope with daily life, find out more about different kinds of anxiety problems and what you can do about them.

Do I have a problem with anxiety?

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious in situations like a job interview, when you get pulled over for speeding, if you’re having relationship problems, or if you’ve been really unwell or in an accident. The anxiety usually passes once the situation is over. However, some people get so anxious that it’s hard for them to work, socialise, or take care of things at home. Their anxiety might be about one or two things in particular, or about life in general. Symptoms of anxiety can involve:

  • Physical symptoms – like breathlessness, racing heart, sweating, trembling, nausea, dizziness
  • Feelings – like feeling irritable, extremely afraid or worried, like you’re losing control, or that something terrible is going to happen.
  • Thoughts – like thinking the worst or getting wound up about things that haven’t happened.
  • Behaviour – like avoiding situations that set off your anxiety.

If you often experience some of these symptoms and find that they are interfering with your daily life, you might have a problem with anxiety.  Some people who have problems with anxiety turn to alcohol or other drugs to help them cope.

Read Jane’s story...

“Things set him off and he gets really upset, really emotional. When we met he was a very extroverted guy; he got along with everybody and liked going out. Now he’s a man who won’t leave the house. I can’t think of the last time we had a stack of people over, we just don’t do it. I mean, we can but I’ve got to let him know in advance and he needs to know who’s coming. Or where we’re going …It goes like this… You’ll say ‘So and so has invited us over for a barbecue in three weeks.’ And they go, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a good idea’. And then a week before, they’ll start to fester and you can see it coming. And then they get grumpy and they’re short tempered and they don’t want to go but they don’t want to say they don’t want to go because they’ve told you that they will. So they’ll make everything so awful that on the day you’ll say, ‘Stuff you, I’m going by myself and you can just stay here! I’ll take the kids.’ And as soon as you do that, they’re happy.”

Jane, wife of a Rwanda and East Timor veteran - Read more about Jane’s story The lid's off the box (PDF, 2.47Mb) 


Different kinds of anxiety

There are different kinds of anxiety. We’ve included more detail on the 4 kinds that are most common for veterans:

  • Social anxiety is when people get very anxious in social situations or where they feel like they might be judged.
  • Panic attacks are sudden, intense spells of feeling very frightened, anxious, or uneasy in situations where most people wouldn't feel afraid.
  • Agoraphobia is related to panic attacks and happens when people get so anxious about having another panic attack that they start avoiding places or situations where that might happen.
  • Generalised anxiety involves worrying constantly about a lot of different things.

Other types of anxiety not included in detail here include:

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder, which involves repeated, unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety (obsessions), and acts or rituals that are performed to lessen that anxiety (compulsions). For example, the obsession might be a fear of germs, and the related compulsion might be a constant washing of hands.
  • Specific phobia, which is an irrational fear of a particular a situation, activity, animal, or object. Common examples include fear of closed spaces, driving, or blood or needles.

What can I do about it?


There are a few things you can do yourself to help get back on track and enjoying life again. For some people, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help.

Use anxiety management strategies

Take Action: Relax Your Body and Slow Your Breathing

Feeling constantly ‘on edge’ leads to muscle tension, fatigue, aches and pains.

The Progressive Muscle Relaxation tool teaches you how to tense and relax different muscle groups in your body. The Controlled Breathing tool teaches you how to slow your breathing rate. These tools will help you to feel calmer and release tension from your body.

These tools will take some practice to get the most out of them. When you’re starting out it’s best to practice one (or both!) of these tools once a day, when you are feeling reasonably calm. Once you’ve learnt the skills you can use them when you feel anxious.

You can also access these tools on the High Res app to use on the go.

Take Action: Use Problem Solving strategies

Spending a lot of time worrying about issues in your life often makes you feel worse, and usually doesn't solve the problem.

If you’re worried about a particular problem or situation you find yourself in, use the Problem Solving tool to help work though the problem and find the best solution.

When you’re starting out use the tool to solve a relatively easy problem. Once you’ve learned the skills you can start to apply the problem solving steps to all sorts of situations as they arise in your day to day life.

Use helpful self-talk

Sometimes, anxiety can be so intense that it feels dangerous, or completely overwhelming. It can be helpful to remind yourself that even though it might feel that way, it’s not. Try telling yourself things like:

  • “Even though this is horrible, it's not dangerous or life-threatening ”
  • “These feelings will pass”
  • “I’ve survived anxiety like this in the past”.

Recognise: Identify Unhelpful Thoughts

The way you think affects the way you feel and unhelpful thinking is likely to contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Use the Challenge Your Thoughts tool to help you identify the unhelpful thoughts you might be having about a particular situation (e.g., "what if all these people think I’m an idiot when I’m talking") or about your anxiety symptoms themselves (e.g., "My heart is beating out of my chest, I’m going to die"). This tool can help you practice spotting any unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more helpful ones.

When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to practice helpful thinking with a situation that is bothering you but isn't too overwhelming. Once you’ve learned the skills you can apply them to more anxiety provoking situations.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. 

Avoid avoiding

Because anxiety is an unpleasant feeling, it’s easy to want to avoid being in situations where you might feel anxious. This isn't really helpful though, because it doesn't give you a chance to learn to take control of your anxiety. Even though it might be hard, try not to let your anxiety take over and stop you from doing things you enjoy or achieving your goals. It’s also important not to withdraw further from your family and friends, or your daily routine (e.g., work, study).

Getting Help

Self-help isn't for everyone. If you’ve tried the strategies above and are still struggling, or your anxiety is very distressing and you think you need extra help, follow the links below to read more about the different anxiety disorders and their treatment.

  • For the past few months, have you worried excessively about several things most days? Do you find it hard to control your worries? Do your worries skip from topic to topic? Would other describe you as a ‘worrier’? Find out more information about generalised anxiety disorder.
  • Do you often feel anxious or embarrassed when you are the centre of attention? Would you describe yourself as very shy? Do you find yourself avoiding social situations such as meeting new people, talking in meetings or making speeches? Find out more information about social anxiety.
  • Do you sometimes feel a sudden surge of extreme anxiety or panic, in situations where most people would not be afraid? Do these panic attacks often seem to come ‘out of the blue’? Do you feel uneasy in situations where you might have a panic attack, or where it might be hard to escape or get help? Or do you avoid those situations altogether? Find out more information about panic disorder and agoraphobia.