What is anxiety?

As much as having anxiety is a stigma, it’s useful to start off by saying it is absolutely normal to feel anxious, worried or fearful in certain situations. These feelings are our bodies natural ‘fight or flight response’ to a perceived dangerous or risky situation. It is therefore our safety mechanism and definitely is a ‘friend’ of yours. However if continuous feelings of anxiety impacts on your ability to carry out normal day to day functioning then you could have an anxiety disorder.

It is estimated that in the UK, there are over 8 million people living with anxiety – that is a little over 1 in 10 people. However, everyone will experience anxiety disorder in different ways so not everyone will experience the same symptoms.

Symptoms of anxiety

Remembering that not everyone with an anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms, it is also useful to remember that anxiety can have both emotional and physical symptoms. There may be an impact on carrying out everyday tasks and it can also lead to depression, though not everyone who has anxiety will experience depression as well. It is very important to remember that there are individual differences.

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Uncontrollable over-thinking
  • Catastrophising
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom’
  • Feeling irritable
  • Heightened alertness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Wanting to escape from the situation you are in
  • Dissociation (feeling like you aren’t connected to your own body, watching things happen around you without feeling it.)

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Heavy and fast breathing
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Hot flushes and blushing
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Hair loss
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Headaches, dizziness and fainting
  • Stomach aches, nausea and sickness

Often symptoms of anxiety can also mimic other conditions such as heart illness and diabetes so it is Always useful to have your GP confirm your diagnosis than self diagnose.

Anxiety, man in hoody holding up a note asking for help

Types of anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety disorder. Two of the most common ones include:

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder whereby the main symptom is excessive worrying about a lot of different activities and events, hence it being generalised to many activities and events. You may feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel ‘on edge’ and hyper-alert to your surroundings.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder may also be referred to as social phobia which includes excessive worrying about social or performance situations and experiencing an intense fear or dread of social situations. This can happen before, during or after an event. Common situations where you may experience social anxiety includes:

  • Speaking in public or in groups
  • Presentations
  • Meeting new people
  • Dating
  • Eating or drinking in public

Other conditions

Anxiety Disorders can trigger phobia’s and vice versa whereby phobia’s can trigger anxieties. A phobia is an overwhelming fear of things like an object, place, situation, animals or even feelings. Behaviours can also be influenced by anxiety and result in issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) thereby repeating behaviours because of unpleasant / unwelcomed thoughts leaving people feeling distressed and anxious.  Skin-picking (dermatillomania) and Hair Pulling (trichotillomania) anywhere on the body can also result due to underlying levels of anxiety.


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