Psychological medicine

Dealing with anxiety and hyperventilation symptoms

Anthony Sams, Gavin Andrews



Anxiety is a normal emotion. It is useful in situations when the person needs to be alert and focused (e.g. in exams) and when quick action is required (such as avoiding being run over by a bus). Many people with anxiety disorders view all anxiety as ‘bad’.

Article Extract

  • The goal of treatment is to control anxiety symptoms, not eliminate anxiety in its entirety.
  • Anxiety disorders are common. The recent Australian National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey found a 12-month prevalence of anxiety disorders to be 9.7%, making them the commonest mental disorder.
  • Comorbidity is common, particularly substance abuse (benzodiazepines, alcohol) and mood disorders – 20 to 30% of people with a main complaint of anxiety will have comorbid depression.
  • Hyperventilation results in changes in arterial carbon dioxide concentration, with associated physical symptoms. It can be controlled with simple behavioural techniques.
  • Long term benzodiazepine use is likely to lead to tolerance and dependence, while the underlying disorder is untreated.