About anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease; something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. It is the feeling we get when faced with threatening or difficult situations. It is a normal and sometimes helpful emotion to experience. However, when that feeling becomes too strong or is present more than it should be it can affect day-to-day life.

When we say anxiety can sometimes be helpful, an example of this would be nervous energy giving you the confidence to deliver a presentation or perform well in a job interview or exam.

Anxiety is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure, trouble breathing, nausea and sweats to name a few. Anxiety can become a condition when people have recurring anxiety over something small or something that would not usually cause a reaction. These can include triggers, intrusive thoughts or concerns.

Symptoms of anxiety

People often experience physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they feel anxious or stressed.

Some of the most common physical symptoms are:

  • Increased heart rate or increased muscle tension
  • ‘Jelly legs’ or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Hyperventilation (breathing too heavily) or dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing or a tight band across the chest
  • Wanting to use the toilet more often
  • Feeling sick
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes or increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking or palpitations
  • Choking sensations

Some of the most common psychological symptoms include feeling that:

  • You might lose control and/or go ‘mad’; or feelings that you might die
  • You might have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
  • People are looking at you and noticing your anxiety
  • Things are speeding up/slowing down
  • You’re detached from your environment and the people in it
  • You want to run away/escape from the situation
  • You’re on edge and alert to everything around you

The most common behavioural symptom involves avoiding the situation that makes you feel anxious. Although this can produce immediate relief, it’s only a short-term solution. The anxiety often returns the next time you’re in that situation – and avoiding it will only reinforce the feeling of danger. And it means that you’ll never find out whether your fear about the situation and what might happen is actually true