What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a result of the body's default response to danger. Adrenaline is rushed into the bloodstream as part of our
fight-or-flight response. This response is triggered whether the danger is real, or whether we believe danger is present
when it actually isn't. It is part of the body's alarm and survival mechanism.
However, this response can sometimes be overactive and kick in when it isn't required, for example when the danger is only in our heads and not in reality.
Types of anxiety
According to the NHS (2018), there are a number of different types of anxiety disorder. The most general one is
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a long-term condition.
Signs of having GAD include:
- uncontrollably worrying about things, causing distress and affecting daily life (such as school, your job and your social life)
- inability to let go of worries
- worrying about a wide range of things, ranging form job and your health to minor concerns such as household chores
Other types of anxiety disorder include:
A condition characterised by regular, recurring panic attacks.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
An anxiety disorder dominated by obsessions (intrusive thoughts, images) and compulsions (such as rituals, urges and behavioural responses to thoughts).
An overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.
Feeling anxious about being in places or situations that could be difficult or embarrassing to get out of, or situations where you might not be able to get help if you have a panic attack. Examples of said situations include leaving home, being in crowds or travelling alone.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events, often reliving the event(s) through nightmares and flashbacks.
A long-term, overwhelming fear of social situations that typically starts during the teenage years.
Symptoms of anxiety
According to the NHS (2019), the symptoms of anxiety are as follows:
- Faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Chest pains
- Feeling hot
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Being unable to relax
- Worrying about the past or future
- Feeling tearful
- Inability to sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fear of the worst happening
- Intrusive traumatic memories
- Obsessive thoughts
- Inability to enjoy leisure time
- Difficulty looking after yourself
- Struggling to form or maintain relationships
- Worried about trying new things
- Avoiding places and situations that create anxiety
- Compulsive behaviour, such as constantly checking things
Dealing with anxiety
What to do when you feel anxious
- Pause, take a breath and don't react immediately (STOPP )
- Ask yourself the following:
- What am I reacting to?
- What is it that I think is going to happen here?
- What's the worst (and best) that could happen?
- What's most likely to happen?
- Am I getting things out of proportion?
- How important is this really?
- How important will it be in 6 months time?
- Am I overestimating the danger?
- Am I underestimating my ability to cope?
- Am I mind-reading what others might be thinking
- Am I believing I can predict the future?
- Is there another way of looking at this?
- Is this fact or opinion?
- What advice would I give someone else in this situation?
- Am I putting more pressure on myself? - Just because I feel bad, doesn't mean things really are bad.
- What do I want or need from this person or situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise?
- What would be the consequences of responding the way I usually do?
- Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for others)
- Visualise yourself coping in the situation you feel anxious about. See the situation to a successful completion.
Dealing with the physical symptoms of anxiety
You should attempt to counteract the body's adrenaline response by channelling that energy healthily.
Practise calming or mindful breathing . This alone will help reduce the physical symptoms, emotions and intensity of thoughts.
Visualisation can also help: breathe in blue (for calm), breathe out red.
You should also exercise. Go for a walk, run or cycle or do some gardening/housework.
NHS, 2018. Signs of an anxiety disorder. [online] nhs.uk. Available at:
NHS, 2019. Anxiety, fear and panic. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-fear-panic/.
Vivyan, C., 2015. AnxietySelfHelp. [online] getselfhelp.co.uk. Available at: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/AnxietySelfHelp.pdf.
Did you know?
Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (seeing your family and friends) to avoid feelings of worry and dread.
You may also find it difficult and stressful going to work and may take time off sick. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and increase your lack of self-esteem.