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What is Anxiety and how can we combat it?

Researcher & Writer: Eugena CHAN

Illustrator: Ellie LIU

Everyone has feelings of anxiety, so what separates these normal feelings from an anxiety disorder? Anxiety disorder is a psychological illness that affects 30% of the US population and 4.2% of people in Hong Kong, aged 16 - 75, making it one of the

most common mental illnesses people are diagnosed with. Oftentimes, anxiety disorder stems from inherited genes, experiencing a traumatic or stressful event, underlying health conditions or even substance abuse.

Having feelings of anxiousness and stress is a normal emotional response as our bodies are programmed to use these feelings to trigger our fight-or-flight reaction if we are ever in a dangerous situation. However, those suffering from anxiety disorder will often have an overwhelming sense of anxiety that prevents them from carrying out their daily activities.

Several symptoms that are associated with anxiety include, feeling of restlessness, hyperventilating, trembling, feeling a sense of danger or panic etc. Some more serious symptoms that an individual can experience consist of agoraphobia, selective mutism, separation and/or social anxiety etc. All of these symptoms can impact one’s ability to function in day-to-day life as they can cause the individual to shut down in public or have a series of anxiety attacks.

The most frequent form of treatment is psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can allow patients to learn to behave and react to situations in a different way that will help with their anxiety. Medication like SSRIs are usually prescribed for those with more severe forms of anxiety. Nonetheless, SSRIs do not cure anxiety, but rather help relieve the many symptoms of the disorder.

There are many other ways to cope with anxiety disorder outside of going to therapy and taking medication, like breathing exercises and meditation which can help prevent panic attacks and calm severe feelings of stress. Studies have also shown that exercise can immensely help with anxiety. By exercising, our brain chemistry is altered and serotonin uptake is increased, helping to reduce intense emotions of anxiousness. Creative activities like making art, playing music or even reading a book can also help one to relax and calm down.

Since anxiety is different and experiences are not universal for everyone, these techniques may not be completely effective in combating every single symptom of anxiety, but by trying a variety of activities, those with anxiety can find ways to healthily cope with it. Please remember to consult a professional if you are concerned with having an anxiety disorder.


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NHS website. (2022, October 13). Overview - Generalised anxiety disorder in adults. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from

Ratey, J. J., MD. (2019, October 24). Can exercise help treat anxiety? Harvard Health. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from

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