What is anxiety?
Everyone will experience anxiety in their life. Anxiety is a normal human feeling of unease or fear that is experienced when we are in a situation that we perceive as frightening or threatening. Although anxiety might feel unpleasant, its function is to keep us alert and help prepare our body for ‘fight or flight’ – to fight the fearful object or situation, or to run away from it. Usually, when we leave the situation or get used to it, the anxiety decreases. However, if the anxiety persists, is ongoing and/or is severe in nature, it can become problematic and can get in the way of life.
How do I know if I have an anxiety problem?
You may be experiencing anxiety problems if the symptoms of anxiety are persistent and/or severe in nature. There are different types of anxiety problems, including generalised anxiety disorder (feeling anxious all the time), panic disorder (intense attacks of anxiety), obsessive-compulsive disorder, health anxiety and phobia (including social phobia).
The symptoms of anxiety include feeling worried all the time, feeling irritable and difficulties with concentration. Physical symptoms of anxiety include rapid heartbeats, sweating, feeling hot, tense muscles, breathing fast, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and passing urine frequently.
What should I do if I think I have an anxiety problem?
It is important to remember that anxiety problems are very common. Everybody experiences anxiety and a certain degree of anxiety is even good for us. However, if your feelings do not go away you should seek more help. Your GP is likely to be the first person you will see about your anxiety. Your GP might then recommend further treatment.
What can I do to help myself?
There are a number of things you can try:
- Learn relaxation skills – relaxation is a good way of calming the mind and body. If you would like to learn more about relaxation techniques there are books, cds and dvds available to help you learn.
- Talk to someone – talking about problems can help us feel better. Try talking to friends or relatives that you are close to.
- Self-help books and websites – there are a number of self-help books and websites that are available to support people with anxiety difficulties. There are self-help computer packages available too, which can be accessed through your GP.
- Self-help groups – a good way of getting in touch with people who are going through similar experiences. You can look for these on the internet.
What professional help could I get?
- You can talk to your GP about how you are feeling. They may recommend:
o Talking therapy
o There are different types of talking therapy.
o The most common is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which encourages you to examine how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour interact and how they might contribute to your experience of anxiety. The therapy also encourages you to develop more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.
Where can I find out more?
National Health Service website: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anxiety/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Royal College of Psychiatrists website:
Anxiety Coach Website:
Discuss your anxiety issues on the Mental Health Forum
Mental Health Forum Anxiety Forum
The Mental Health Forum thanks the anonymous author for writing this article. It has been written especially for the Mental Health Forum.