Anxiety? Anxious? Fear? Panic? Phobia? Do you feel like you often experience anxiety? Does your heart suddenly start to beat faster? Do you sometimes get dizzy? Then chances are that you experience an anxiety attack. Anxiety is one of the most discussed disorders. Sometimes you hear about someone having anxiety or an anxiety disorder, but you might have a hard time imagining it. If you have not had it yourself, it is hard to imagine what anxiety means to someone with an anxiety disorder. Often, people with anxiety themselves know that their anxiety is out-of-place, but they do not know how to deal with this anxiety.

  • 6B00 Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • 6B01 Panic Disorder
  • 6B02 Agoraphobia
  • 6B03 Specific Phobia
  • 6B04 Social Anxiety Disorder
  • 6B05 Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • 6A73 Mixed Depressive and Anxiety Disorder
Psychological Symptoms, physical signs, Trembling, twitching, feeling shaky Backache, headache Muscle tension Shortness of breath, hyperventilation,Fatigability Startle response, Autonomic hyperactivity, Flushing and pallor ,Tachycardia, palpitations, Sweating Cold hands, Diarrhea, Dry mouth (xerostomia), Urinary frequency, Paresthesia ,Difficulty swallowing, Feeling of dread, Difficulty concentrating, Hypervigilance, Insomnia, Decreased libido, “Lump in the throat”, Upset stomach (butterflies)

Anxiety: what is anxiety?

What is anxiety? Anxiety has several definitions. The most commonly used definition of anxiety is the following:

Anxiety is an emotion caused by a perceived or experienced threat, which often leads to an avoidance or evasion thereof.

Anxiety thus is a reaction on something that scares you which leads to evasive behavior or intense emotions in case the fear has to be confronted. Anxiety is a natural mechanism, which helped us to survive in prehistoric times. As opposed to other psychological mechanisms, anxiety is something we were actually born with.

Why then do some people have anxiety disorders while others do not? Everyone has the capacity of developing an anxiety disorder. Yet, not the entire population suffers from an anxiety disorder, as several factors are needed to develop an anxiety disorder.

Predisposition + situation + coping style

Except for the predisposition for anxiety, which everybody has, there often is a situation needed, which links this situation to the triggering of anxiety. Even this will not automatically lead to anxiety. After this happening, it is important how you deal with this situation. This choice can lead to either healthy anxiety or unhealthy anxiety.

Unhealthy anxiety can have a large influence on your life. You can no longer do the things which you want to do, or you will be influenced by it during your daily activities. if you are anxious, you will feel like your entire life revolves around this anxiety. You want to get rid of it and you know that the fear is not realistic, yet it still remains like a dark cloud over your head. FOrms of anxiety which have been present for an extended period of time will also lead to fear of fear. This means that you are anxious about experiencing the anxiety symptoms and to get into contact with the situation which causes anxiety. This can, in turn, lead to you thinking only about the anxiety, because you find the symptoms so awful. However, this will cause even more anxious situations and eventually worsen the symptoms.

As you can see, anxiety is a negative vicious cycle, which is difficult to escape. It fully consumes you and it can influence you happiness, relationships, hobbies,.... It is difficult to get rid of this anxiety, but there are options. Anxiety often gives people the feeling that they have lost control, that there is nothing they can do about their anxiety. However, this is not true. You can overcome your anxiety and re-find your happiness. There are tools which you can use in order to re-gain control over your own life.

Take the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: prevalence of anxiety?

Anxiety and anxiety disorders occur more often than one would think. Anxiety and its anxiety disorders occur frequently worldwide, and many people worldwide suffer from it.

Prevalence of anxiety in Belgium?

Below you will find the numbers regarding the prevalence of anxiety in Belgium. These are numbers about anxiety disorders according to the European Study on Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) :

  • 15.1% of Belgian women and 11.1% of Belgian men have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
  • 6.8% of the Belgian population has experienced a specific phobia.
  • 2.7% of the Belgian population has experienced a generalized anxiety disorder.
  • 2.3% of the Belgian population has experienced a post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 2% of the Belgian population has experienced a panic disorder.
  • 2% of the Belgian population has experienced a social phobia.
  • 0.8% of the Belgian population has experienced an agoraphobia.

Prevalence of anxiety in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, too, the prevalence of anxiety is high, according to a study by De Graaf et al., 2010:

  • In total, 1 061 200 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from an anxiety disorder.
  • 188.200 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder.
  • 131.900 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from a panic disorder.
  • 526.200 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from a specific phobia.
  • 394.200 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from a social phobia.
  • 39.100 people between 18 and 65 years of age suffer from agoraphobia.

Anxiety disorders thus occur more often than one would initially think. Anxiety disorders affect people all around the world and can have a permanent influence on these people. if you experience an anxiety disorder, these numbers can help you conclude that you are not the only one suffering from an anxiety disorder. Some people with anxiety disorder namely believe that they are weaker than others. As you can see, there are many people around the world who suffer from an anxiety disorder. You can therefore not say that you are weaker than 'the rest', because there are many people who suffer from similar problems.

How to deal with prevalence of anxiety?

Anxiety and its result of an anxiety disorder often gives a feeling of loss of control. As if you were no longer the boss over your own mind and body. That is why it can be difficult for some people to take the step toward care, because they feel like there is nothing they can do anyway. Yet, there are different techniques for treating anxiety and anxiety disorders. There namely are therapies, which can treat your anxiety symptoms and make you the boss over your own body once again.

Sometimes if can be so that you feel like 'it is not all that bad' or that 'everyone suffers from time to time'. However, this should not stop you from treating your suffering. Suffering, no matter how little, can have consequences, which affect your happiness. Therefore, it is useful to treat any level of suffering, for your own sake.

Test if you also experience anxiety symptoms by taking the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is healthy anxiety?

As mentioned earlier, anxiety is pre-programmed to help us in case of danger. If you are in contact with danger, anxiety will trigger the so-called fight-or-flight (or freeze) response. This means that our body will prepare to either fight, flight, or freeze completely.

Anxiety: fight, flight or freeze?

The first response is called fight. This reaction will help you fight. For example, if you are being attacked and you cannot escaped. Then your body will trigger the reaction so you can fight back, protect yourself. The second response is flight. If the danger is too big, your body will let you know that it cannot save you and that you will need to escape. For example, if a bear suddenly appears in front of you. The chance that you win that fight is very small. The third possible reaction is called freeze. in some cases the anxiety will make it so that we stand completely still and are unable to move. This is the anxiety which spreads through your body, causing you to freeze on the spot.

Anxiety: healthy versus unhealthy anxiety?

In prehistoric times, anxiety definitely had a useful function. Nowadays, too, if you are confronted with a tiger, chances of survival will increase by anxiety triggering the appropriate response. There are also situations, however, where you anxiety will not help you but rather will be in your way. For example, if you are worried about taking the elevator because you think it might fall down, is that then healthy anxiety? It does put you in a dangerous situation, does it not? In that case we speak of an unhealthy anxiety. If you are eye to eye with a tiger, the chances that it will attack you are close to 100%. Ever met a tiger who came toward you to cuddle? Of course not, we know this and that is why we automatically have a reaction which warns us of danger. But if you compare this to the chances of an elevator being your cause of death, is the chance still 100%? 10%? Neither. The chance of an elevator actually crashing down with you inside is extremely tiny. In that case we speak of an unreal anxiety and therefore unhealthy anxiety. This idea would namely stop you in the future from taking any elevators.

So, healthy anxiety is anxiety which prepares us to react to real danger. In the cases where anxiety hinders us, we speak of unhealthy anxiety. Another example is found in the preparation of an exam. Healthy anxiety will cause you to study just a bit more, the evening before the exam, while unhealthy anxiety will make you doubt your own capacities, causing a blackout during the actual exam.

Test whether your anxiety is healthy or unhealthy at the hand of the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety symptoms can appear at different levels. There symptoms can influence you in different ways when it comes to your activities and behavior. It can be that they cause you some discomfort, but they can also lead to a panic attack.

Anxiety: minor form of anxiety?

In a minor form of anxiety, you can feel uncomfortable in situations which trigger anxiety. You will, however, not let this discomfort decide over your life and behavior. For example, you will not feel comfortable with yourself sometimes, not quite know what to do with yourself, but you will be able to let go of your anxiety. Also, you will not start to avoid situations.

Anxiety: minor form of anxiety symptoms?

In a minor form of anxiety, you do experience the symptoms of anxiety, which will mildly influence your behavior. You will notice that you try to avoid the situations which cause anxiety, but if you are forced to be in the situations either way, you will go through them, despite the discomfort that it causes you. Possible symptoms which can be experienced at this stage include the following:

  • Worrying
  • Constant worry
  • Unrest
  • Agitation
  • Irritable
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension

Major and extreme forms of anxiety symptoms?

In the major and extreme forms of anxiety symptoms you will feel like the anxiety decides over your life and you will try to avoid certain situations. Under no circumstances do you want to be in contact with these situations. It is possible that you experience a panic attack if you are forced to be in a certain situation with these anxiety symptoms. This type of anxiety can have a larger and larger influence over your life and trigger a fear of fear. You are no longer in charge of your own behavior and feel like you have lost control.

Symptoms which can indicate a panic attack are the following:

Physical symptoms

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness,
  • Dry mouth
  • Ache in the chest area,
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache.
  • Sweating
  • Your face turning pale
  • Hyperventilation

Psychological symptoms

  • De-realization
  • De-personalization

Test your anxiety symptoms here, using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety is a type of anxiety where one is scared of failing. This can reach from failing at social tasks to scholar tasks. Performance anxiety will make it so that we can no longer function properly and can, for example, cause us to have a blackout. Performance anxiety also causes a psychological suffering, which makes it so that we no longer feel comfortable with ourselves. Because performance anxiety can occur in different ways, the DSM-5 categorizes it under either social anxiety or general anxiety.

Performance anxiety can develop because you have low self-esteem and therefore not believe in your own capacity. This low self-esteem, however, will only become worse due to your performance anxiety, because your chances of failing or rejection are increased if you have performance anxiety. Also, people with performance anxiety are under an enormous pressure to perform. This is something you can put yourself under, or which you can feel comes from people around you.

Anxiety: what are the symptoms of performance anxiety?

The cognitive symptoms of performance anxiety

  • Negative self-image
  • Negative self-judgement
  • Internal locus of control (attributing failure to oneself)
  • Difficulties with accepting compliments
  • Too high/too low requirements set for oneself
  • Avoiding/evading the situation which causes anxiety
  • Performance anxiety can entirely take over situations

The physical symptoms of performance anxiety

  • Turning red
  • Heart palpitations
  • Transpiration
  • Stomach complaints
  • Bowel complaints
  • Headache
  • Hyperventilation
  • Blackout

The behavioral symptoms of performance anxiety

  • Procrastination
  • Perfectionism
  • Avoiding certain tasks
  • Daydreaming

Anxiety: do we experience healthy anxiety in performance anxiety?

No, because healthy anxiety helps us to function. Healthy anxiety can for example make it so that we study better the night before an exam. Performance anxiety on the other hand will make us so anxious that we no longer can think properly or focus. Performance anxiety can make it so that we do not go to the exam at all. Performance anxiety thus makes it so that we start to avoid a certain kind of behavior or certain situations.

Anxiety: the types of performance anxiety?

There are three main forms of performance anxiety to be differentiated between: first off there is cognitive performance anxiety, which is the fear of failing at school tasks. Here we do not only consider failing, but also the receival of negative feedback. We also have social performance anxiety, where you are scared of being rejected or to get negative feedback in social situations. Proper social skills can help with this. Finally, there is motor-related performance anxiety, where you are afraid when it comes to doing motor tasks.

Test your performance anxiety symptoms by taking the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is a panic disorder?

A panic disorder is a type of anxiety, where sudden panic attacks or anxiety attacks are experienced. The first panic attack is often caused by an extreme level of stress or anxiety, which means you from them on can experience fear of fear. This means that a panic attack can be so scary, that you become anxious about getting another anxiety attack. This can then lead to avoidance behavior. A panic disorder should not be underestimated and can have a large influence on your life.

Anxiety: what are the symptoms of a panic disorder?

Before we consider a panic disorder, at least 4 anxiety symptoms must be present:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of suffocation
  • Aching chest
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling sensation in arms and legs
  • Suddenly feeling very warm or cold
  • Surreal feeling
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

An anxiety attack can have any length. The length differs per person. Usually you experience the climax of the panic attack after 10 minutes.

Anxiety: How does a panic disorder develop?

A panic disorder can develop from a combination of different factors. Often there is a combination of genetics and situational factors at hand before a panic disorder is developed. Genetic factors include:

  • An imbalance of neurotransmitters
  • Higher risk of anxiety in unknown situations
  • Higher chance of interpreting situations as dangerous
Genetic + situation

Except for an eventual predisposition when it comes to developing a panic disorder, everyone also responds differently to certain situation. You, yourself choose to react anxiously or experience a situation as stressful. This is good news, because that means that you are not doomed to develop a panic disorder even if the genetic factors are present. This also means that you can find the key to treatment within yourself.

Test your panic disorder symptoms using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia regards the anxiety of not being able to escape in large spaces. This means that you become anxious when you are in large places, generally with many people, where you feel like you could not find help or escape in case something were to happen. You can simply not find your way out, were anything to go wrong. Examples of situations which can trigger agoraphobia are the following:

  • Bus
  • Airplane
  • Squares
  • Markets
  • Cinemas
  • Waiting rooms

Anxiety: what are possible consequences of agoraphobia?

Just like other types of anxiety, agoraphobia does not limit itself to just the fear of open spaces. After a while you will notice that you are anxious about more and more situations. Your anxiety will thus become more general. Also, the agoraphobia will have a large influence on your daily life and functioning. For example, you might no longer dare to go to the store, which can pose issues when it comes to food. These people often also isolate themselves or avoid large groups of friends/family members. All these consequences can affect your happiness after a while. Often, people with agoraphobia also start to experience depressed symptoms after some time.

Test your agoraphobia symptoms using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is social phobia?

Social phobia regards a fear of embarrassing oneself in social situations. You are afraid of feeling embarrassed or doing something, even something regarding a bodily function like blushing, which you do not have under control. Social phobia comes together with, among other things, previous negative experiences and a negative or low self-image or self-esteem. Social phobia can lead to, among other things, the avoidance of social situations or situations in which you think you might embarrass yourself.

Anxiety: symptoms of social phobia?

The following symptoms are used to diagnose a social phobia at the hand of the DSM-IV:

  1. Fear of shame or humiliation. Anxiety for such situations is as good as always present, possibly even in the form of a panic attack.
  2. Realization of unreal anxiety
  3. Avoidance of the social situation which causes anxiety
  4. The social situation leads to avoiding behavior
  5. Anxiety has clear negative influences on different areas of your life and causes suffering.
  6. For people under 18 years of age, the symptoms must be present for a period of at least 6 months.
  7. There may not be a physical causes to the social phobia, and substance abuse may not either be the cause.

Anxiety: causes of social anxiety?

Social anxiety is generally the same as other types of anxiety in that a combination of genetics and situational factors is required before a social anxiety can develop. Genetic causes of anxiety include gender (women have a larger risk of developing social anxiety than men do) and hereditary factors (inheritance of social anxiety). Situational factors of social anxiety are generally put into two categories:

  1. Learning anxiety through other people
  2. Your own reaction and personality

Own reaction and personality have a much larger influence on whether or not social anxiety is developed than the behavior which you learn by observing other people does. If you were to be at risk for developing social anxiety, you still get to make the choice at the end of the day. You pick the reaction which you have to a certain situation, which can then develop into a social anxiety, if this reaction were to have negative consequences. By handling this reaction by going into therapy, for example, you can thus break out of the vicious cycle of anxiety.

Anxiety: consequences of social anxiety

Social anxiety thus causes significant suffering in your life, which can manifest itself in different ways. For example, you can experience depressed symptoms, because you isolate yourself from other people in order to avoid the anxiety. Furthermore, social anxiety can also influence your work and school. For example, you might skip school on a day where you have a larger presentation, affecting your school grades or even causing you to quit school.

Test your social anxiety symptoms at the hand of the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known under the abbreviation OCD, is under the category anxiety. If you have OCD, you experience certain compulsive thoughts and/or behaviors. These behaviors and/or thoughts can control your entire life. These behaviors are done in order to avoid or reduce anxiety and suffering. OCD has the goal of compensating certain thoughts or wants with the help of actions.

Anxiety: symptoms obsessive-compulsive disorder?

The DSM-IV formulated the following criteria which need to be present before OCD can be diagnosed:

  1. The experiencing of compulsive thoughts or the regular acting out of compulsive behavior.
  2. Awareness of the uselessness of these actions.
  3. Actions and thoughts cause significant suffering in different areas of life.

With compulsive behavior we mean actions which need to be done over and over again, a certain amount of times and in a certain pattern. Compulsive thoughts are thoughts, in the shape of an idea, impulse, or imagination, which can bring the compulsive behavior into motion. Often, people try to distract these thoughts.

From research to OCD we can differentiate between 4 main domains of compulsive thoughts and behaviors:

  • Religious, physical, and sexual obsession
  • Obsession regarding symmetrical order
  • Cleaning and washing
  • Hording and collecting

Anxiety: sub-types obsessive-compulsive disorder?

There are 3 different types of OCD:

  1. OCD including obsessive thoughts
  2. OCD including obsessive actions
  3. OCD including obsessive thoughts and obsessive actions

Anxiety: consequences of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

OCD can cause significant suffering in the person themselves as well as the people around them. Both groups can be affected to a large extent by the actions and behaviors. Individually, OCD can cause symptoms of depression and affect your level of performance.

OCD also often occurs together with other mental and physical disorders such as addictions, depression, and even epilepsy.

Test your OCD symptoms using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is a specific phobia?

A specific phobia is a phobia where one certain situation or even object triggers anxiety. This anxiety is so intense that it can lead to a panic attack or even to avoidance of the situation/object. A specific phobia can occur from an early age onward and therefore often is present for a longer time than most phobias are.

Anxiety: symptoms specific phobia?

The DSM-IV-TR describes the following symptoms as symptoms of a specific phobia:

  1. A certain situation/object triggers an anxiety, of which you know that it is over the top.
  2. Upon contact with the situation/object, nearly always anxiety is triggered, which can possibly lead to an anxiety attack.
  3. You know that the anxiety which you experience is unreasonable.
  4. The situation will lead either to a confrontation with intense anxiety or to avoidance behavior.
  5. The anxiety causes significant suffering and hindrance in your life.
  6. In people younger than 18 years of age, these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months before a specific phobia can be diagnosed.

Anxiety: subtypes specific phobia?

Research and experience throughout the years has let us decide upon 5 categories of anxiety in a specific phobia:

  • Phobia for animals
  • Phobia for contact with nature
  • Phobia for contact with blood, injection, and injury
  • Phobia with contact with specific situations such as bus, elevator, certain environments, ...
  • Phobia regarding getting ill or fainting/vomiting

Anxiety: causes and consequences specific phobia?

As you have read already several times in this article, in most cases a combination of genetics and situational factors is required in order for a disorder or phobia to develop. In the case of a specific phobia this is so, too. Here we also see that gender can be a cause, as especially women have a larger chance of getting a specific phobia, as well as inheritance, though to a lesser extent. Situational factors in the development of a specific phobia do, however, entail something extra: economic factors. Generally, people with a lower economic status have a larger chance of developing a specific phobia. But just like any type of anxiety, a specific phobia is most often caused by, combined with other factors, a traumatic event, on which you reacted with anxiety.

With time, a specific phobia can start to have a large influence on your life. Experiencing depressed complaints is not uncommon. Furthermore, you will have the feeling of having lost control, which can increase the depressed complaints. A specific phobia also often has a large influence on your daily functioning, as well as your social functioning and functioning at work/in school.

We do not know much regarding the causes of a specific phobia. What we do know is that there often is an interaction of biological and situational factors at play before a specific phobia is developed.

Test your specific phobia symptoms with the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is a post-traumatic stress disorder?

A post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety which is characterized by a major stress response to a traumatic or shocking event. If you suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder, you display major stress responses to happenings which make you think about the traumatic event. not only these events will cause you stress, but your daily life is affected, too. The trauma thus has a large influence on your life.

Examples of traumas which could cause a post-traumatic stress disorder are:

  • A robbery
  • An attack
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • War
  • Accidents

What are the symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder?

People who suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder experience a major loss of control. You have the feeling that you have no grip on the situation anymore. During the traumatic event, you often experience a feeling of helplessness, which you continue to feel in your daily life in case of a post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, you will notice that things which used to be natural for you, are no longer so. You feel anxious and do not trust people and your surroundings anymore. You feel vulnerable and are mostly afraid.

Despite the traumatic event being in the past, you keep preparing for danger. You no longer feel safe and have the feeling that you are constantly in danger. For example, if you have fought in a way, it can be that you still hear bombs, even while you are at home. People who have experienced rape, for example, are very anxious and hardly dare to leave the house anymore. This anxiety remains with them and does not decrease in severity. You are thus in a constant state of anxiety and stress.

What are the consequences of a post-traumatic stress disorder?

Because you are stuck in a constant state of anxiety, people with post-traumatic stress disorder often suffer from chronic stress. They are, on top of this, stuck in a constant state of agitation and often respond in a major way to the smallest triggers. For example, a biker who cycles right past them can trigger a strong reaction in people who have been the victim of sexual assault or rape.

This constant state of anxiety and stress in post-traumatic stress disorder of course does not have a positive result for the body. A commonly occurring consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder therefore entails physical complaints. Your muscles are tense constantly, you cannot relax, … All these symptoms are very exhausting for your body, making you vulnerable to ailments and illnesses.

Click here to take the free anxiety test and test your post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Anxiety: what is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can be a problem on its own, or a symptom of a larger problem. If you suffer from separation anxiety, this often has to do with a bonding issue coming from a young age. Because of insecure interactions during your youth, it can be that you experience separation anxiety at a later age.

What can cause separation anxiety?

The causes of separation anxiety can be diverse. As described earlier, separation anxiety can have to do with insecure bonding in childhood years. Children, whose parents were alternating between being present and absent, can experience issues with separation anxiety. Insecure bonding is characterized by emotional insecurity. You never know when someone is or is not available to support you. Oftentimes, insecure bonding in relationships is also characterized by attracting and pushing away.

Some syndromes, on the other hand, have separation anxiety as a symptom. Borderline, for example, has the symptom of attracting and pushing people away. If you have borderline, it can be that you really like someone at one moment, and at the next moment you are repulsed by this person. Relationships are very unstable with people with borderline.

What are possible consequences of separation anxiety?

People with separation anxiety are also likely to distance themselves, out of fear of being left themselves. By pushing people away, they feel a little safer. They also feel less abandoned that way. Your fear of being left is so big that you will even want to end healthy relationships.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

The following symptoms can help you recognize separation anxiety:

  1. You have been alone for some time and make little effort to get to know someone.
  2. While you do go on dates, you never are in serious relationships.
  3. You experience a suffocating feeling when you think of bonds like living together.
  4. You prefer friends over an eventual partner.
  5. You have issues with intimacy.
  6. Making future plans is difficult for you.

Test your separation anxiety with the help of our free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is acrophobia?

Fear of heights is a commonly occurring type of anxiety that can reach problematic levels. If you have fear of heights, you experience an uncomfortable, stifling feeling when at some height. It is normal to be anxious when you are at a large height. Fear of heights makes it so that we would not just climb a mountain. It makes us tae precautions, so that we will not fall from a life-threatening height. Fear of heights is found in every human being, and has existed as long as man himself. Fear of heights thus is some type of survival mechanism of nature.

Fear of heights, however, can also become a phobia. This phobia is also sometimes called acrophobia. This type of fear of heights can even occur at heights which should not be scary at all. An example of this could be if you were to become very scared when having to cross a bridge. Crossing a bridge does not have life-threatening risks like mountain climbing does, for example. Yet, people with acrophobia still have the same symptoms which they would have if they would have to climb a mountain.

How does fear of heights develop?

Fear of heights can develop to become a phobia, for example after seeing someone fall or seeing/experiencing  something negative. It often is an extremely negative experience which triggers a type of anxiety or phobia. Even seeing a fall can be so traumatic, that extreme types of fear of heights develop. The more extreme types of fear of heights generally occur in ages below 10 or above 50 years.

What are the symptoms of fear of heights?

The symptoms of fear of heights are the same as in other types of anxiety. Your heart will start beating faster, your breathing becomes more shallow, your muscles tense up, … These symptoms can differ from moment to moment but are generally rather stable. This means that the same symptoms will often occur again. In many cases they will also worsen as time progresses. The symptoms can also spread to other situations, causing these to also cause anxiety symptoms. Anxiety is not a static matter and will worsen with time.

Click here to take the free anxiety test and test your fear of height symptoms.

Anxiety: what is fear of blushing?

Fear of blushing is a specific phobia, where one experiences anxiety when it comes to blushing. Fear of blushing is also often seen as a social phobia, because the anxiety in fear of blushing is generally caused by the fear of embarrassing oneself. If you have fear of blushing you actually just are afraid of the response of people around you toward your blushing. The blushing thus is some type of representation of social lack of comfort and a fear of embarrassing yourself.

Fear of blushing, as the name implies, is mainly characterized by the fear of blushing. This anxiety generally comes forward in social situations, but can also occur when you think of social situations. Fear of blushing occurs a lot when you are actively speaking to someone or when there are many people around you. Thoughts like ‘do not embarrass yourself now’, ‘do not start blushing now’ et cetera are constantly running through your head. You can imagine how these would affect your life.

Consequences of fear of blushing?

Fear of blushing can have a large influence on your daily life. The fear will have a negative influence on your self-confidence and self-image. You namely constantly think about how you embarass yourself. Fear of blushing can also lead to isolation, where you can feel very alone. Feelings of depression can thus be paired with fear of blushing. Avoiding social situations often is a consequence. This can range from hanging out with friends to even applying for jobs or going to the grocery store. You can thus virtually lock yourself inside your home.

Test your fear of blushing symptoms here using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: what is arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia is a well-known type of specific phobias where a panic fear of spiders is present. The Belgian Arachnological Association ARABEL indicates that 3 out of 10 Belgians suffer from arachnophobia. Furthermore, 7 out of 10 Belgians are afraid of spiders.

Fear of spiders is not enough on its own to speak of arachnophobia. In the case of a diagnosis arachnophobia, more is at play than that.

The symptoms of arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia is characterized by the fear of coming into contact with spiders. The following anxiety symptoms can be present when someone who has arachnophobia comes into contact with a spider:

  • Hyperventilating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tense muscles
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sweating

Not only the contact with spiders can cause anxiety, but even justhinking about spiders or situations in which you might come into contact with spiders. People with arachnophobia know that their fear is irrational, yet they cannot get rid of the symptoms. Anxiety sort of takes over your free will. After a while, this anxiety will lead you to avoid situations in which you think that you might be confronted with a spider. This way, the symptoms fall onto each other like domino bricks, and one symptoms causes a next one. This avoidance behavior has, in many cases, an influence on many different areas of your life and your daily functioning. For example, relationships can become strained because of it.

Test your arachnophobia by taking the free anxiety test here.

Anxiety: what is a generalized anxiety disorder?

A generalized anxiety disorder, also known as GAD, is a type of anxiety disorder where anxiety in general is experienced. This means that you often are anxious for different reasons, in different situations.

Anxiety: symptoms generalized anxiety disorder?

According to the DSM-IV we may speak of GAD if there is a constant anxiety or worry in certain situations, when you know this anxiety is over the top, and you experience at least 3 of the following physical symptoms for a period of longer than 6 months:

  • Fatigue
  • Issues concentrating
  • Muscular tension
  • Problems sleeping

Often people do not really know that they suffer from GAD and instead they often go to see a doctor about inexplicable complaints.

Anxiety: co-morbidity in GAD?

If you experience GAD, you also have an increased chance of experiencing the following illnesses/complaints:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Heart and vascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Headache
  • Muscular ache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Excess sweating
  • Chronic physical issues

Anxiety: causes and consequences of a GAD?

As in any type of anxiety, there are biological factors and situational factors which can increase the chances of developing a GAD. If having a GAD is in your family, then it might be so that you are more vulnerable, too. Furthermore, being in a negative economic situation and experiencing a traumatic event can increase chances of a GAD. Even though there is this vulnerability, you can still choose how you react to these factors, which can possibly stop a GAD from developing.

People who suffer from a GAD often also have depressed issues and experience significant suffering in different areas of life. Oftentimes, people with a GAD have to go through many medical tests before they know what is going on. Social life and performance abilities can also suffer from the disorder.

Test your generalized anxiety disorder using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety in children?

It is normal for children to be anxious sometimes. They namely experience a lot in little time and that is not always something which is easy to deal with. There are anxieties which are normal for certain ages, such as the fear of monsters. Still, anxiety can be disproportional in some cases. Sometimes, the anxiety can start to affect the life of your child a lot, so that your child experiences serious consequences of this anxiety.

Anxiety becomes problematic if it rules over the life of your child. Everyone is anxious at some point, but if the anxiety persists and your child constantly walks around in tension, then we no longer consider this to be normal anxiety or anxiety caused by a certain phase of life. In many cases your child even knows that the anxiety is unreal, but still is unable to let go of the anxiety. This type of anxiety can eventually lead to depressed characteristics, which often leads to avoidance. This can have a large influence on the life of your child.

Anxiety: when do we consider an anxiety disorder to be present in children?

if the following symptoms are present for a long period of time (often, a 6 month time span is used), an anxiety disorder might be present:

  • Constant and overwhelming anxiety
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Tension and nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Daily activities suffer from the anxiety
  • Muscular tension
  • Problems sleeping
  • Issues focusing
  • Irritation
  • Excessive need of confirmation

Test your anxiety symptoms as a child here using the free anxiety test.

Anxiety: how does anxiety develop?

Anxiety has a different cause in everyone and can be triggered by different things. Often we consider a combination of factors which causes anxiety. To get a better overview of what it is that can trigger an anxiety disorder or what can cause anxiety, we divided up the causes of anxiety into general categories.

In most cases there is a combination of genetic or biological factors together with situational factors at play. With situational factors we mean environmental factors and your own personality, which includes coping methods, for example.

Genetic factors (biology) + Situational factors (situation, personality = ANXIETY

The causes of anxiety: biological vulnerability

It can be that you were born with a type of vulnerability which makes it so that you become anxious more quickly or more easily develop an anxiety disorder. It namely is so that 20% of people have a more sensitive nervous system, which means that they have a more extreme response to stimuli from the environment. They will also respond fearfully more quickly. There are people who generally qualify situations as dangerous more often than most people. Except for a sensitive nervous system, genes can also play a role. If people in your family suffer from an anxiety disorder, chances are larger that you also develop one. From research it has been shown, however, that the influence of genetic factors is usually much smaller than the influence of situational factors.

The causes of anxiety: situational factors

In the category situational factors there are several characteristics to be found. This category includes situations which we experience as well as your own response and personality in these situations.

Anxiety can be learned

Anxiety can be learned. So we can become anxious about a situation, about which we did not feel anxiety before. An example of this is that, each time when the bus is late, your boss yells at you. After a while it can be that you are so worried about the bus being late that you get a panic attack. Even if you no longer work for this boss, you may still remain anxious when you need to take a bus. This type of cause is found more often in children than in adults. For example, if a child sees how their mother jumps on a chair when a mouse walks by and she showcases a very scared response to the mouse, it might happen that the child also becomes afraid of mice. Children can thus learn anxiety if their role models showcase such a reaction.

Anxiety caused by a trauma or traumatic event

A trauma, such as abuse or a robbery, can make it so that people become anxious or experience anxiety in a certain situation. A trauma will not automatically lead to the experiencing of an anxiety disorder. In all types of situational factors it is namely important how you respond to the situation. not every person who has seen anxiety in a role model or who has experienced something traumatic will suffer from an anxiety disorder. Only if you respond by showing anxiety in the situation and this reaction remains with you, we can speak of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety: the link to media and culture

Anxiety can also be based in culture or be strengthened by media. It can be that countries where more attention is paid to terrorism and attacks make it so that the people of such countries are more anxious about attacks or terrorist actions. But also think of history here. People in medieval times were terrified about being denied access into heaven. In Europe the church then sold indulgences which were often bought by the people as there was a strong fear of God. In medieval times the reality was that people were taught from a young age onward that they needed to go to church and fear God. This way, media or culture can influence the anxiety which a person experiences.

Anxiety caused by experiences

As a person you experience a lot and your brain processes much in a short period of time. Your thoughts, memories, experiences, ... Often it is so that people try to stop or control certain experiences. This can lead to experimental avoidance. This is a defence mechanism which people have in order to experience less anxiety. The opposite happens, though. This type of avoidance will only increase the problems. It can turn normal anxiety into problematic anxiety, for example.

What can I change about these causes?

If you have a predisposition about developing anxiety, there is not much you can do about it. If you experience a traumatic event, there is little to change. What people forget, however, is that these factors are not the only things that can lead to an anxiety disorder, but that your response to these factors also is very important. Not everyone with a predisposition namely develops an anxiety disorder. So, it is important how you deal with these factors.

This is good news, because it means that the key to reducing anxiety lies within you. Anxiety often gives people the feeling that they have lost control over their lives. The opposite is true. By choosing to react anxiously to these situations, you have increased the anxiety, meaning you can also actively look for solutions in order to deal with anxiety symptoms and eventual panic attacks. At the hand of a proper treatment you can learn to once again take your life into your own hands and to deal with your anxiety.

Anxiety: how do I treat anxiety in an effective way?

You can treat anxiety in different ways. What the most effective method of treatment is depends on the symptoms and the type of anxiety disorder. Generally, a therapeutic approach is preferred. However, there are certain cases in which therapy might not work or not be enough, where it also is useful to start medication.

Anxiety: treatment via medication?

If you doctor suggests using some form of medication in treatment for anxiety, the following types of medication are generally prescribed. Below we sum up the different types of medication and give you main categories regarding these types of medication.


  • Specific serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Selective noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Non-selective serotonin and noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Non-selective dopamine and noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs)


This type of medication has the goal of dulling your emotions, so that you can respond more quietly to anxious situations. below you will find a name with common benzodiazepine and their matching brand name. It is important to know that this type of medication poses a risk of addiction. Generally it is recommended not to take this type of medication for periods longer than 2 months, because the body builds up a tolerance to the effect of the medication.

Type of benzodiazepines Brand name
Alprazolam Xanax
Bromazepam Lexotanil
Chloordiazepoxide Librium
Clobazepam Frisium
Clorazepinezuur Tranxène
Diazepam Valium
Lorazepam Temesta
Oxazepam Seresta
Prazepam Reapam


It is an option to take herbs to reduce anxiety symptoms. The way the herbs work are influenced by the type of symptoms you experience, though:

Toning herbs

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • St. John's wort
  • Lemon balm

Sedative herbs

  • Valerian
  • Passiflora
  • Hop

Anxiety: therapeutic treatment of anxiety?

Therapy generally has the best results when it comes to anxiety. The most common form of therapy used in anxiety are variants of cognitive behavioral therapy. In this cognitive behavioral therapy thoughts and constructs which cause anxiety are linked to the emotions and behaviors caused by anxiety. With this overview we can deal with negative constructs and re-structure thoughts and behavior. This way, anxiety is reduced, as you are dealing with the constructs which cause anxiety.

Sometimes, even other types of therapy are useful in the treatment of anxiety. This can differ for different forms of anxiety. For example, mindfulness training is useful in case of GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. People with physical issues can also use therapy which focuses on the body, so that they learn to listen to their bodies.

Therapeutic help of an online program?

Doctors and psychologists worked together in order to create the online self-help program 15Minutes4Me. This program is based on therapeutic techniques, so that they can help you from home in order to treat negative anxiety constructs. The online program uses techniques both from cognitive behavioral therapy as well as systematic solution focused therapy. This way, you learn every day to challenge negative constructs in order to reduce anxiety symptoms and to re-gain control.

The program can also be combined with other types of treatment. Here it is useful to let your doctor, psychologist, psychotherapist, ... know about all types of treatment which you follow, so that they have an entire overview of your approach to treatment.

The program also offers the option to help children in dealing with anxiety. A requirement is that the child in question has a large vocabulary and that help from parents is available in case they are confronted with a difficult word.

Test your anxiety symptoms by taking the free anxiety test and therewith the first step toward treatment.

Anxiety: take the anxiety test

What does a good anxiety test imply? If you want to know to what extent you experience anxiety symptoms and to what extent these symptoms have a negative influence on your life, you can take our free online anxiety test here. The test takes about 5 minutes and shows you your personal anxiety score right at the end.

This anxiety test also tells you to what extent you experience stress and depression symptoms. After the test you will also find a guidance video, which tells you more about your results and about what it is that can help you from here.