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:

Other types of anxiety disorder include:

Symptoms of anxiety

According to the NHS (2019), the symptoms of anxiety are as follows:

Physical symptoms
  • Faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling hot
  • Shaking
Mental symptoms
  • 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
Behavioural changes
  • 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

(Vivyan, 2015)

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.

(Vivyan, 2015)


NHS, 2018. Signs of an anxiety disorder. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-disorder-signs/.

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.