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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural and common human emotion characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and unease. It is a normal response to stress or perceived threats, preparing the body to react to potential danger. Anxiety serves as a protective mechanism, activating the “fight-or-flight” response, which triggers physiological changes like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and heightened alertness.

While occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, excessive and persistent anxiety that interferes with daily functioning may indicate an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that involve excessive and uncontrollable worry, fear, and apprehension, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

Anxiety can arise from various sources, including specific triggers or generalized worries about future events. If anxiety becomes overwhelming, interferes with daily life, or causes significant distress, seeking professional help from mental health practitioners is recommended. Effective treatments, including therapy, medication, and self-help strategies, are available to help individuals manage and alleviate anxiety symptoms, allowing them to lead fulfilling lives.

Who has Anxiety?

Anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It is a widespread mental health condition that impacts people across the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 275 million people worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can develop at any stage of life, including childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. It affects individuals of all socioeconomic statuses and cultural backgrounds. While anxiety disorders are more commonly diagnosed in women, men can also experience anxiety.

Anxiety can often co-occur in people who have Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), as well as those who struggle with depression.


The symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person and can manifest both physically and psychologically. Here are common symptoms associated with anxiety:

  1. Physical Symptoms:

    • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Sweating or clammy hands
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Upset stomach or digestive issues
    • Muscle tension or aches
    • Fatigue or feeling easily tired
    • Headaches or migraines
  2. Psychological and Emotional Symptoms:

    • Excessive worry or chronic feelings of apprehension
    • Restlessness or feeling on edge
    • Irritability or agitation
    • Difficulty concentrating or racing thoughts
    • Trouble sleeping or experiencing insomnia
    • Feelings of dread or impending doom
    • Being easily startled or having a heightened startle response
    • Avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety
    • Intrusive thoughts or obsessive thinking
    • Feelings of being disconnected or detached from oneself or reality (in severe cases)

It’s important to note that experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, but if these symptoms persist, intensify, or significantly interfere with daily functioning, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder. If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent and distressing anxiety symptoms, it’s recommended to seek professional help from a mental health practitioner for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Common Types

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Individuals with GAD experience excessive and uncontrollable worry about various aspects of their life, such as work, health, or relationships, even when there is no apparent reason for concern.
  2. Panic Disorder: Panic disorder involves recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are intense episodes of fear accompanied by physical symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and a sense of impending doom.
  3. Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia): People with social anxiety disorder have an intense fear of being embarrassed, judged, or humiliated in social situations, leading to avoidance of such interactions.
  4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It involves symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and emotional distress.
  5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) performed to alleviate anxiety. These rituals can significantly disrupt daily functioning.
  6. Separation Anxiety Disorder: Typically observed in children, separation anxiety disorder involves excessive fear or distress when separated from attachment figures, leading to avoidance of separation or extreme distress during separations.
  7. Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia involves a fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or help may not be available if anxiety or panic symptoms arise. This fear often leads to avoidance of public spaces and can be associated with panic disorder.
  8. Specific Phobias: Specific phobias involve an intense and irrational fear of a particular object, situation, or activity, such as heights, spiders, flying, or needles.


The causes of anxiety are multifaceted and can vary from person to person. It’s often a combination of several factors that contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Here are some common factors that can contribute to anxiety:

  1. Biological Factors: Research suggests that certain biological factors can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. These include genetic predisposition, imbalances in brain chemistry and neurotransmitters, and differences in brain structure and function. Individuals with a history of anxiety in their family may also be at a higher risk.

  2. Environmental Factors: Traumatic events or stressful life experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse, loss of a loved one, or significant life transitions, can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. Chronic stress, exposure to violence, or a history of neglect can also contribute to anxiety.

  3. Personality Traits: Certain personality traits, such as being highly self-critical, having a tendency towards perfectionism, or being overly cautious, can make individuals more prone to anxiety. People with low self-esteem may also be at higher risk.

  4. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, or thyroid disorders, can be associated with increased anxiety symptoms. Substance abuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can also contribute to anxiety.

  5. Brain Chemistry and Neurotransmitters: Imbalances in brain chemistry, particularly involving neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), are thought to play a role in the development of anxiety disorders.

  6. Cultural and Environmental Factors: Societal and cultural factors, including societal pressures, socioeconomic factors, and cultural expectations, can influence the development of anxiety disorders.

It’s important to note that anxiety is a complex condition, and individual experiences can vary. Often, multiple factors interact and contribute to the onset and persistence of anxiety disorders. Understanding these potential causes can help inform treatment approaches and support individuals in managing their anxiety effectively. If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety symptoms, it is recommended to seek professional help from a mental health practitioner.


Diagnosis of anxiety disorders typically involves a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a qualified mental health professional. The diagnostic process generally includes the following steps:
  1. Initial Assessment: The mental health professional will conduct an initial assessment, which involves gathering information about the individual’s symptoms, medical history, family history of mental health disorders, and any potential underlying causes or stressors.
  2. Clinical Interviews: Detailed clinical interviews are conducted to explore the nature and severity of the anxiety symptoms, their duration, and the impact they have on the individual’s daily functioning and overall well-being.
  3. Assessment Tools: The mental health professional may utilize standardized questionnaires, scales, or assessment tools designed to assess anxiety symptoms and measure their severity. These tools provide additional information and help in making an accurate diagnosis.
  4. Rule Out Other Conditions: It is essential to rule out other medical or psychiatric conditions that may present with similar symptoms to anxiety disorders. This may involve conducting physical examinations, laboratory tests, or consultations with other healthcare professionals if necessary.
  5. Diagnostic Criteria: The mental health professional will refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which outlines the criteria for various mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders. They will compare the individual’s symptoms and experiences to the specific criteria outlined in the manual.
  6. Collaboration and Discussion: The mental health professional may consult with other colleagues or professionals to obtain a second opinion or collaborate on the diagnosis, especially in complex cases.
  7. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning: Based on the evaluation and assessment, the mental health professional will make a diagnosis, identifying the specific anxiety disorder(s) that the individual may be experiencing. They will discuss the diagnosis with the individual and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment planning and interventions. If you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder, it is recommended to seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can conduct a thorough evaluation and provide appropriate support and treatment.


Treatment for anxiety disorders typically involves a combination of therapeutic approaches tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Here is a brief overview of common treatment options:
  1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a key component in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely used and focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with anxiety. Other effective therapy modalities include Exposure Therapy, which helps individuals confront their fears gradually, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which emphasizes acceptance of anxiety and commitment to value-driven actions.
  2. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines, may be used to reduce anxiety and regulate brain chemistry. Medication is typically prescribed in conjunction with therapy and monitored by a healthcare professional.
Additional treatment approaches may include:
  • Lifestyle Changes: Implementing healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques (e.g., mindfulness, relaxation exercises), can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups or group therapy can provide a sense of community and support from individuals facing similar challenges.
  • Self-Help Strategies: Learning and practicing self-help techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, and developing coping skills, can empower individuals to manage their anxiety effectively.
  • Complementary Therapies: Some individuals find relief through complementary therapies, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, or herbal supplements. It’s important to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating these approaches.

Treatment for anxiety disorders is highly individualized, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to work closely with mental health professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses specific symptoms and goals. With proper support and treatment, individuals can effectively manage their anxiety and improve their overall well-being.


Bhavna Sharma Naik

Bhavna Sharma NaikBhavna is an embodiment of expression in Hindi, and what better way to convey her feelings than through the art of dance and movement. From the tender age of 5, she has dedicated her life to learning, practicing, and performing various dance forms from around the world. Dance has been her refuge, helping her navigate through pain, hurt, and worries, ultimately leading her to the path of sharing this wisdom through rhythm and movement therapy. With over 22 years of teaching experience, Bhavna has transformed numerous students, spanning kids, adults, and children with autism, using movement as a medium for both enjoyment and meditation. She firmly believes that movement serves as a non-verbal language that connects body, mind, and soul, enabling individuals to express their inner selves. As a Visharad in Indian classical dance and holding certifications in yoga, Pilates, fitness, and a diploma in special needs education, Bhavna is well-equipped to guide others on their transformative journey through dance and movement.

Noura Al-Thawadi

NouraA pioneer and coach, she is the founder of the be.fit180o team and the QAthletics Academy. She is the first Qatari coach targeting age groups from 4 to 14 years old for running and jumping since 2019. She holds a diploma in sports club and sports institution management and is a Level 3 running and fitness coach.

Abubaker Ali

Abubaker AliFormer Qatar athletic and Coach.

Pierre Daniel

Pierre DanielFrench adventurer and endurance athlete, living in Doha for the past 15 years.

Marketing professional, with an everlasting passion for sport and physical activity. Through his journey, he became an ambassador for an active and healthy lifestyle. In 2018, Pierre ran 477km around Qatar in seven days, unassisted, establishing the Fastest Known Time for the circumnavigation of the country and setting a Guinness World Record at the time for the fastest north to south crossing of the country.

Through his personal development as an endurance athlete, Pierre developed a holistic approach in preparation for challenges, including physical and mental mindfulness, goal settings condition, preparedness, and more. Pierre is also a certified endurance coach, helping athletes develop their potential and reach their goals

Dr. Nelli El-Ghazal

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Shefa Ali

Shefa AliShefa, with over 15 years of corporate experience, is a leading figure in coaching and motivation in Qatar. Her background in corporate communications and her roles as a Life & Business Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Wellness Advocate have made her a sought-after expert. She divides her time between consulting, coaching, workshops, and delivering keynotes for various organizations. Shefa is also a prolific writer and editor, contributing to publications like The Conversation by Amanda de Cadenet and a weekly column in Gulf Times, a prominent newspaper in Qatar. Her diverse client base includes organizations across multiple industries.

Joanna Rekik

Joanna RekikJoanna, a wife and mom of three boys, spent over a decade calling Qatar home. Transitioning from the corporate world, she recently embarked on a new journey, becoming a business owner specializing in digital marketing. Beyond her professional pursuits, Joanna is a passionate advocate for mental health, emphasizing the significance of work-life balance and prioritizing self-care for mothers, readily sharing her experiences through her blog, “Mama in Transit”.

Suhaila A. H. Ghuloum,
FRCPsych, L.R.C.P& S.I., M.B., B.Ch., B.A.0

Dr. Suhaila GhuloumDr. Ghuloum is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Hamad Medical Corporation, Professor at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, and an Associate Professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, Qatar.

She has national and international involvements in mental health, including with the GCC, WHO, the Arab Board, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the World Psychiatric Association, and the World Federation for Mental Health. She was a key member in drafting the Qatar Mental Health Strategy and Law.

Dr. Ghuloum has several research projects and publications, in addition to presentations at regional and international conferences.

Dr. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari

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Previously served at the esteemed Hamad Medical Corporation, Dr. Al-Kuwari has become a distinguished consultant in General and bariatric Surgery, currently practicing at The Masters Medical Center. His medical expertise and dedication to improving the well-being of his patients have earned him a reputation as a compassionate and skilled healthcare professional.

Beyond his medical endeavors, Dr. Al-Kuwari is a passionate cyclist and accomplished triathlete. His love for these sports led him to co-found the Qatar Cyclist Center, a hub for nurturing local cycling talent. In 2016, he received a resounding vote of confidence when he was elected President of the Qatar Cycling Federation, a role in which he excelled.

During his tenure, Dr. Al-Kuwari has been a tireless advocate for promoting cycling and triathlon sports in Qatar. His visionary leadership has seen the organization evolve, leading to the creation of a dedicated Triathlon unit within the Federation in 2017. As a result, the Federation has been rebranded as the Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation, reflecting his commitment to expanding the reach and appeal of these sports.

Dr. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari’s multifaceted contributions, both in the medical field and the world of sports, make him an exceptional individual who continues to impact the lives of many in Qatar positively.

Amna AlMuhannadi

Amna AlMuhannadiAmna AlMuhannadi is a certified Ayurvedic lifestyle instructor and a psychological and social counselor with over a decade of experience in the field of health and wellness. She is recognized as an influencer in promoting healthy living and wellness tourism.

Amna provides workshops, consultations, and retreats, and she is a co-founder of ATLAAD, a natural beauty brand. Her approach involves blending alternative medicine and ancient healing practices with modern science to achieve holistic well-being.

Moses Amonje

Moses AmonjeMoses is a Physical Literacy and Physical Activity Champion, with vast experience, of over 18 years in youth empowerment, community development, project planning, project implementation, networking, resource mobilization, and working at different levels from grassroots, national, and international levels. He has extensive experience working with diverse groups of individuals in both local and global capacities.

As the Acting Head of Activation, at the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, Moses advocates for the promotion of physical activity and consumption of healthy diets from a tender age so as to prevent and manage the sharp rise in Non-communicable and Cardiovascular diseases including mental health among the Qatar Population.

Through the Activation Zone at the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, Moses supports the public in achieving their health and fitness goals by equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to take control of their health, and overall wellness, by introducing them to physical activity, and sports.

Iain Tulley

Iain TulleyIain Tulley spent 35 years in UK Healthcare, 15 years as Chief Executive.

Prior to joining HMC, he was Chief Executive of Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, one of the largest mental health Trusts in England. He was previously Chief Executive of Devon Partnership NHS Trust and East Devon Primary Care Trust. Tulley has held a number of senior healthcare management posts; he also worked at the Department of Health and was involved in developing a National Service Framework for Mental Health in the UK. He originally trained as a nurse in Scotland before retraining and becoming a manager. During his time as Chief Executive, he has promoted clinical leadership, enabling clinicians to lead and develop services for the benefit of patients. He describes his only priority as improving the quality of the patient experience.

He believes that the development of Mental Health Services in Qatar will further enhance the world ranking of our health system.

Mahnaz Mousavi

Dr. Mahnaz Mousavi

Mahnaz Mousavi is the Director of Student Wellness & Counseling Center at Georgetown University in Qatar. Dr. Mousavi, is a licensed psychologist in the District of Columbia, U.S.A and is a BCIA Board Certified in General Biofeedback. She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Akron in Ohio and her postdoctoral master’s degree in Clinical Psychopharmacology from the California School of Professional Psychology in California. Dr. Mousavi’s initial master’s degree in Clinical Psychology is earned from Iran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran. As an integrationist, some of her areas of interest include working with young adults, crisis intervention, childhood abuse, trauma, psychological assessment, mindfulness, and biofeedback, with a focus on multicultural and cross-cultural counseling and counseling university students. Her academic contributions include a book in Iran on Childhood Abuse in Iran, articles in peer-reviewed journals, and regular presentations at conferences and meetings.

Latifa Al Kuwari

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Menatalla Metwally Said ElBadway

Menatalla Metwally Said ElBadway

I am a fourth-year medical student with a minor in computer science, deeply passionate about mental health advocacy and patient rights. I bring a diverse range of experiences to the table, including serving as the President of the Qatar University Student Surgical Society, Founder and President of the Qatar University Student Surgical Society, and a current College Representative at Qatar University. I also have a background in social media marketing and event organization, having interned at QU Health and worked with the Qatar Interprofessional Education Student Association. My skills encompass Adobe Photoshop, marketing, video production, social media management, event planning, and more. I’m excited to contribute to the Flourishing Minds Festival and support the cause of mental health as a universal right.

Najla Al Kuwari

Najla Al Kuwari

Mother to 4 boys and founder of young mothers Qatar, which is an educational initiative directed to new mothers. We discuss all matters relating to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and newborn care on social media platforms.

I am also a member of national maternal mental health committee and an advocate for mental health awareness.

Arafa Alhammadi

Arafa Alhammadi

Offers specialized programs in holistic health, EQ life coaching, self-awareness, wellness, and fitness, personal and professional development and training as well as real-world applications, for those who are interested in self- or career development.
Stefan Lindberg-Jones

Stefan Lindberg-Jones

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Kamila Janik, MSC, BCBA

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Kirsten Hutchison

Kirsten Hutchison, MT-BC

Kirsten is a board-certified music therapist from the United States. She has practiced music therapy for children and adults for over 15 years, in the US and Qatar. She specializes in working with children and teens with developmental and behavioral disabilities and differences, and loves using music to support learning and growth. She has lived in Doha for 5 years. When she’s not doing music, she loves playing games with her family, crocheting, and exploring the beautiful world we live in.

Anshu Jain

Anshu Jain

A versatile on-stage personality with over 13 years of experience in hosting 250+ events, spanning sports, corporate, and entertainment. A sought-after digital content creator known for creativity. A successful brand promoter, explorer, and fashion enthusiast. A seasoned voice-over artist with a track record of prestigious projects and a facilitator for talk shows.
Sheldon Smith

Sheldon Smith

Founding Principal, Northview International School

Experienced Principal with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. He has been working away from Canada for the past 24 years, covering Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Qatar. In Qatar, he previously worked for Al Khor International School (8 years) and Al Jazeera Academy (4 years).

Mo Eraky

Mohamed Eraky

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Dr Ameera

Dr. Ameera Al-Kharaz

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She has a special interest in life and wellness coaching, helping individuals reach their full potential and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Dr. Ameera finds fulfillment in her clinical work, collaborating with patients, and her role as a quality advocate, facilitating programs and quality improvement projects within the Mental Health Service and across HMC.