Psychology and Allied Health Services

OCD and Anxiety Awareness Week

What is Anxiety?

Feeling anxious every now and then is ok and quite normal – anxiety serves to prepare us for danger or help us avoid it altogether.  Sometimes these anxious feelings do not disappear or appear in situations that pose no real danger to us, and start interfering with our daily lives. This is when anxiety becomes a problem and when more severe, can be classed as an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety includes excessive worry concerning things, places, situations, health, people, and more. There are several forms of anxiety disorders, including general anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Approximately 1 in 7 Australians are currently living with an anxiety disorder, and approximately 1 in 4 will experience an anxiety disorder in their lives.


What does anxiety feel like?

People with anxiety often report symptoms such as upset stomach, rapid breathing, fast heartrate, and unhelpful thoughts such as “Am I going crazy?” or “Am I dying? Is this what a heart-attack feels like?”.

When we are in danger, the brain prepares the body for action – we get ready to either fight the threat head-on or run from it.  These symptoms we experience when we are anxious are part of the fight-or-flight system activating. Our breathing and heartrate increase so that our muscles get as much oxygen as possible and are ready for action. Our muscles also receive adrenaline to prepare the body to run fast or fight for our life, but often when we are anxious (and not in danger) the adrenaline rather makes us shake or tremble.

Evolutionary speaking, fear keeps us safe by allowing us to avoid or confront danger for our own survival. However, the brain sometimes reacts too strongly, misjudges or overplays the danger of a situation. Our fight or flight system kicks in even though there is no real danger, resulting in feelings of anxiety or panic. This can be incredibly frightening, especially when it seemingly comes ‘out of the blue.’


What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety, where certain thoughts (e.g. “I think I left the oven on!”) are difficult to get rid of (becoming obsessions), often resulting in compulsive behaviour (e.g. checking the oven repeatedly to make sure it is off) that is directed at reducing the distress caused by the obsessive thoughts.

These obsessions and compulsions can greatly interfere with daily functioning, and many who experience OCD report feeling shame and embarrassment about experiencing these thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of obsessions relate to, but are not limited to:

  • Contamination; Security; Illness or Harm; Loss or Immorality

Examples of compulsions include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive Cleaning, Checking, Counting, Balancing, Seeing Reassurance, Apologising, Needing Order or Symmetry

When I see something out of order, I feel annoyed – am I a bit OCD?

If you just like things neat and orderly, it is probably not OCD. Most people just enjoy uninterrupted and organized patterns. In fact, it is a criterion for diagnosis that the obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming or cause significant distress or difficulties in daily functioning.

While you may have heard someone say “I am so OCD about things”, statements such as these should be avoided as such reports can be quite stigmatizing for people with actual OCD diagnoses.  It tends to undermine the very real difficulties they face daily or makes light of a challenging and difficult condition. It is important to keep in mind that OCD is not an adjective, it is a serious condition that can often be debilitating.



I think I have Anxiety or OCD – now what?

If you think you or a someone close to you has OCD, now is a good time to seek treatment.

Our team at Minding Family Townsville would be happy to provide further support to you or a loved one to assist with managing anxiety, OCD, or other concerns relating to these conditions.


Please contact us on 47 238 221 to discuss pathways for referral.