Hopohopo Anxiety

Anxiety can happen when you face a new situation, stressful event, or if something is going wrong in your life. It is normal to feel anxious at times. If you feel anxious or worried so often it interferes with your daily life, you may need help for an anxiety disorder.

Video: Anxiety explained

A video that explains what anxiety is, why it is different to stress, and the problem with self-diagnosing an anxiety order.

Anxiety explained — YouTube (external link)

Symptoms of anxiety

As well as feeling worried, you may have distressing physical symptoms, including:

  • racing heart or thumping (palpitations)
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • shortness of breath, or breathing quickly 
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • chest pain
  • headaches.

Diagnosing anxiety

If you are wondering if you have anxiety, you can do a self test. Anxiety can often go along with depression, and you may want to check for this also. 

Anxiety self-test — Depression.org.nz (external link)

You can see a healthcare professional who can listen to your symptoms, and make sure there is not another condition causing your low mood.

Self care for anxiety

There are many things you can do to help get your anxiety under control and feel better. You can improve anxiety by looking after yourself by:

  • being active
  • sleeping well
  • eating well
  • staying connected
  • managing stress.

You may also need to use strategies such as breathing techniques, and relaxation techniques, as well as finding supports that work for you.

Understanding anxiety — Depression.org.nz (external link)

Treating anxiety

Anxiety can be managed in a variety of ways.

You might have to try a range of things before you start feeling better. Some things you will be able to do for yourself. But you might need some extra help from your healthcare provider, therapists, or other health professionals.

Your healthcare provider is a good place to start if you think you, or someone close to you, might have anxiety. 

Where to get help for mental health

  • Consider doing an online course. This can help you understand your illness and give you options to try to reduce your anxiety.

    Just a Thought

    Free online courses for people with anxiety and depression. The courses take 6 to 8 weeks to complete and include a generalised anxiety and a depression course.

    Beating the Blues

    This online programme is based on cognitive behavioural therapy, one of the most common treatments for anxiety.

    Small Steps

    A set of tools to help with feelings of anxiety, stress or low mood.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the recommended talking therapy for anxiety. It aims to teach you to manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours so you can respond in a better way to anxiety.

    A psychologist, counsellor or brief intervention talking therapist can provide talking therapy and emotional support.

    You can find information about accessing mental health support on the Mental Health Foundation website.

    Accessing mental health services — Mental Health Foundation

  • Medication is used to help some people with anxiety. It is best used with other treatments such as talking therapies or self-help courses that can help make long-lasting changes.

    Antidepressant medications

    Antidepressant medications may be used. Even if you are not depressed, they can reduce your symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used. It can take 4 to 6 weeks on each dose before you notice the full benefits. It is important to keep taking the medication even on days when you do not feel anxious.

    You can get side effects, which can include nausea (feeling sick), headaches and sleep problems. Sometimes your anxiety can temporarily get worse. Talk to your health professional before stopping the medication.


    Benzodiazepines are sometimes used to help with anxiety while other treatments are put in place. They are not suitable for long-term use because they can reduce alertness and affect coordination and can be addictive.

    Medications for mental health issues — HealthInfo

Anxiety in children and teenagers

Anxiety is one of the most common challenges experienced by tamariki (children) and rangatahi (teenagers). Both boys and girls are affected.

Sometimes the anxiety can be greater than that of their peers and interfere with the young person's life — how they manage on a day to day basis. This may be a sign that an 'anxiety disorder' is developing and treatment for this may be necessary.

The KidsHealth website has more information about anxiety and depression in tamariki and rangatahi.

Anxiety — KidsHealth (external link)

Supporting someone with anxiety

Your support can make a big difference to someone close to you. Often, someone will start treatment because their whānau or friends have encouraged them.

It can be hard to know what to say and how to help. Just being there, doing things together, and staying connected can make a difference.

Anxiety.org.nz has more detailed advice about helping someone who has depression or anxiety.

Anxiety and panic attacks: how to be a supportive friend and whānau — Anxiety NZ (external link)

Look after yourself

It is also important to look after yourself.

If you are involved in caring for someone who has an anxiety disorder, you might find some support at Yellow Brick Road. They offer free support and resources for whānau of people with mental illness.

Yellow Brick Road

Parenting with anxiety

When someone has an anxiety disorder, they might find being a parent particularly challenging. You can get more information and advice from Anxiety New Zealand. They also have a helpline with specially trained volunteers who you can talk to.

Melon Health

A series of short videos explaining anxiety and offering suggestions to help manage it.


Information about ways of treating depression and anxiety.

The Lowdown

Helping young Kiwis understand and deal with depression and anxiety.


The Clearhead app helps you with learn about your mental health. You can use it in English or te reo Māori.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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