What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of worry, fear and panic. As well as these emotional feelings, people with anxiety might also experience physical (body) sensations such as a racing heart, breathing fast, sweaty hands, dry mouth and feeling shaky. Many people also have “what if” or negative thoughts when they are anxious.

Anxiety is a normal

Anxiety is a normal human response to feeling threatened or in danger, this can sometimes be a thought, image or memory. Anxiety can become a real problem if these feelings are very strong, happen even when there is no real danger or if it lasts for a long time. Lots of people experience worry and anxiety although for some people it can impact on everyday life and get in the way of school/college, socialising and even home life.

Some young people living with anxiety share their story in the video below 

Common Anxieties include worries about:

  • what other people think of you
  • not feeling good enough or being judged
  • bad things happening to you or people that are important to you
  • you are responsible for bad things happening (it’s your fault)
  • school and the future
  • friends and relationships
  • health (including worries about germs and contamination)

These are common and normal. See self-care

When is anxiety a mental health problem?

Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem if:

  • your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  • you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  • you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways. If your experiences meet certain criteria your doctor might diagnose you with a specific anxiety disorder.

Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Panic disorder
Perinatal anxiety or perinatal OCD
Health anxiety
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Social anxiety disorder

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