Anxiety is a normal reaction to threat. When we perceive danger our body releases adrenaline that leads to a fight/flight response which enables us to react to stressful situations.

However, anxiety disorders occur due to one overestimating  the consequences of a threat and underestimating their ability to cope.

Anxiety increases when one focuses on the threat. This leads to apprehension, exaggerated thinking and unpleasant physical symptoms such as palpitation, headaches, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, light headedness increase in heart rate, muscular pain e.g. chest pain sweating, etc.

Anxiety becomes abnormal if the symptoms persists for no apparent reason or the symptom is out of proportion to the stressful situation, even when a stressful situation is no longer there.


Below are symptoms of anxiety:


  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Dry mouth (not due to medication or dehydration)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint or lightheaded
  • Feeling that objects are unreal or that the self is distant or ‘not really here’
  • Fear of losing control, “going crazy” or passing out
  • Fear of dying
  • Hot flushes or cold chills
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Muscle tension or aches/pains
  • Restlessness/inability to relax
  • Feeling keyed up, or on edge
  • Sensation of a lump in throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Exaggerated response to minor surprises or being startled
  • Difficulty in concentrating, mind ‘going blank’, because of worrying or anxiety
  • Persistent irritability
  • Difficulty in getting to sleep because of worrying

ICD-10 diagnostic criteria