Everybody experiences some form of anxiety throughout their lives. Some cases may be more severe than others. People can reference anxiety to feelings of being tense, uncertain and even fearful. These can be because of things such as sitting an exam, going to hospital, attending a college or job interview, starting something new and even exposing something about yourself that means a lot to you. You can even worry about feeling uncomfortable, the feeling of looking silly in front of people, or how successful you will be. These worries can affect many factors including:
  • Sleeping patterns.
  • Appetite.
  • Concentration levels.
Anxiety will start to subside when things start to go well again. This type of "short-term" anxiety can actually be quite useful, for example feeling nervous or anxious before an exam can make you feel more alert, and therefore will increase your performance. However overwhelming feelings of anxiety can start to have negative effects on your concentration and your ability to succeed to your full potential. Anxiety and fear is helpful in the sense that it can protect you from potential dangers in life. If you feel threatened then anxiety and fear will trigger the release of hormones such as adrenaline. The hormone adrenaline will cause your heart to beat faster, it will cause you to breathe faster, you will start to sweat more and your mouth will start to feel dry. As a result of this, your senses will become heightened and your brain will be more alert. These changes within your body allow you to take the appropriate action to protect you in any dangerous situation. This could be from either running away or fighting! This can sometimes be known as the "fight or flight" reflex. After any dangerous situations have passed, more hormones will be released in your body to help the effects of the adrenaline to subside. This can cause your muscles to shake as they begin to relax. Some people can suffer from more severe cases of anxiety. Having anxiety for a long time may start to make you feel as if you cannot cope with everyday life. As the anxiety starts to become more severe, you may start to feel powerless, out of control, feel like you are going to die or even feel like you are going mad. These severe feelings of anxiety can start to lead to experiencing panic attacks.
A panic attack can be seen as a more overactive response to fear and stress compared to the normal response of the body. It is caused by the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, these include:
  • Pounding heart beat.
  • Feeling faint.
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Pains in the chest area.
  • Discomfort when breathing.
  • Starting to feel like you are losing control.
  • Shaking.
  • Limbs start to feel like jelly.
Whilst experiencing these symptoms, you are most likely having a panic attack however you will be in the state of mind where you may convince yourself that you are going mad, having a black out or having a heart attack. You may even convince yourself that you are going to die throughout the course of the attack, which results in a terrifying experience. Panic attacks often come on fairly quickly, the symptoms will usually peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks can vary in length and will last mainly between 5 and 20 minutes. Some attacks though have been reported to have lasted up to an hour in length, however this is most likely to be multiple attacks one after the other, or it could be due to a high level of anxiety after the initial attack. You may have one or two panic attacks, and never experience them again in your life. Some people have attacks more regularly such as once and month or several times a week. Some people, however, have attacks at random and do not know when they will strike. Sometimes, panic attacks can appear throughout the night and wake you up. These usually happen if your brain is continuously alert due to anxiety, this means that your brain will notice any small changes in your body and interprets these as a sign of danger. These may be particularly frightening because they can leave you confused or helpless to do anything to foresee them coming. Some people will worry more than others, there are many reasons for this including different personalities, past experiences, current experiences or childhood experiences. It could even be a mixture of more than one of these.


There are many different types of Anxiety Disorders and these are posted below.

Phobias - A phobia is an irrational fear. If you have a phobia, then your feelings of anxiety will be triggered by very specific situations or objects, such as spiders, heights, flying or crowded places.

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - You may be diagnosed with GAD by a doctor if you have had feelings of anxiety for long periods of time, but are not anxious about anything in particular. The strength of these symptoms can vary.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour are very common for this disorder. You may have obsessive thoughts about being contaminated with germs or fear that you have forgotten to lock any doors or windows at home. You may feel compelled to wash your hands continuously, or do particular things in certain orders or repeatedly.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - If you have experienced or witnessed a very traumatic or stressful event, such as war or rape, you may develop something called Post-Traumatic Stress. You are likely to experience flash backs, and have dreams about these events. This will trigger feelings of anxiety similar to the ones you experienced during those events.

Panic Disorder - Panic attacks may sometimes occur for no reason, and you may not be able to fully understand why these happen. You may feel that you have completely lost control of yourself. When you experience a panic attack and you cannot identify the trigger, then you may have a panic disorder. Because panic attacks can be completely unpredictable, you may start to live in fear of the next attack.

There can be many different causes of Panic attacks and anxiety.

Past experiences:

Past experiences can have many different effects on your mental state when you grow older. Even if you think that you have gotten over or moved on from these experiences, they may still have unwanted effects. For example if something happened in the past that distressed you, leaving you unable to deal with your emotions at the time, then you may become anxious about facing similar situations in case they cause the same emotions again. Feeling anxious could also be something that was taught to you in earlier life. For example if your family saw the world as dangerous and hostile, then you will have grown up to see the world in the same way and this can cause feelings of anxiety. Some theories also show that anxiety can be inherited, therefore making it a part of your personality.

Everyday life and habits:

Although you may become used to living your life in a certain way, there are certain actions that can cause you to experience anxiety. These are:
  • Caffeine
  • Excess sugar
  • Poor diet
  • Drug misuse
  • Exhaustion
  • Stress
  • And also any side effects or any medications can trigger or copy feelings of anxiety.

Fear of losing control:

You may spend a lot of time thinking about your future, and worry about what will happen to you when you get there. You may feel that you have lost control, or never had control, of certain parts of your life, you may start to feel anxious towards situations beyond your control such as global warming, of being attacked, of developing cancer, or of losing a job. After some time, you can start to become scared of the symptoms of anxiety, especially feeling out of control. This sets up a vicious circle. You may feel anxious purely because you are scared of anxiety, leading you to experience anxious thoughts just thinking about it.

There are many different effects that Anxiety can have on your body and these are listed below.

Physical effects:

  • Short-term effects:
    • Increased muscular tension can cause discomfort and headaches.
    • Rapid breathing may make you feel light headed and shaky, it can give you pins and needles as well.
    • Rising blood pressure can make you more aware of a pounding heart. Changes in the blood supply to your digestive system may cause nausea and sickness.
    • You may feel an urgent need to visit the toilet, and get "butterflies" in your stomach.
  • Long-term effects:
    • Fear combined with tension and lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, lowering you resistance to infection.
    • Increased blood pressure can cause heart or kidney problems, and contribute to the chances of having a stroke.
    • You may experience digestive difficulties.
    • You may also start to feel depressed, click here to see more on depression.

Psychological effects:

Anxiety can have many effects on your psychological state. It can make you more fearful, more alert, more on edge, more irritable and unable to relax or concentrate. You may feel and overwhelming desire to seek the reassurance of others, to be more dependant on those around you. It can have an effect on the way that you think. If you start to see the worst in everything, then your going to start to see everything negatively in a pessimistic way. For example, if someone was late to meet you, you may because exceptionally worried that they have been involved in an accident or does not want to meet you, when actually they are just late for a completely unrelated reason. To cope with these feelings and sensations, you may feel the need to start smoking, drinking or drug use. You may start to hold on to relationships that either encourage your anxious outlook or help you avoid situations that distress you, and therefore you remove what is worrying you.

If you ever feel that you have any kind of psychological disorder, then you need to go and see your GP as soon as possible, they will be able to give you completely professional advice on your options for treatment and recommend the treatment they think will be best for you.

Talking Treatments:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - CBT is recommended by NICE for anxiety and panic disorders. It is short-term therapy that is available on the NHS. CBT encourages you to develop new ways of thinking and to work out strategies for managing anxiety, so you feel in control. CBT is usually offered as face-to-face therapy, however, some CBT programmes are available as online programmes that you can use as a self-help aid. The availability of CBT has developed fast under the government funded programme "Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)". However, in some areas the service is still patchy.


There are many different medications you can take for these types of disorders.

Antidepressants - SSRI antidepressants are usually better tolerated than some other drugs, but, in some cases, they may increase anxiety and can cause problems with sleeping. Your GP should give you the recommended does for anxiety, and he/she should monitor your progress. Is SSRI's don't work or aren't suitable, you may be offered a tricyclic antidepressant, such as imipramine or clomipramine. All of these drugs may take several weeks to work, and may cause side effects which your doctor will discuss with you. When you stop taking the drugs, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, tingling, stomach upsets or headaches. This is why it is important to reduce the dosage slowly.

Beta-Blockers - Your doctor may also recommend something called Beta-Blockers. These will help deal with the symptoms such as palpitations, although this method of treatment is not always 100% effective! This method may also be able to help your anxiety in specific situations such as sitting an exam or flying.

Tranquillisers and Sleeping Pills - Doctors usually only prescribe these as a temporary measure for severe or disabling anxiety. This is because some people can become dependent on these drugs (addicted) and can experience difficulties trying to come off of them. They are given in extremely small doses and for short amounts of time. People don't usually take these for longer than a four week period. These have some obvious side effects including:

  • Feeling sluggish
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Not caring about anything.

Sometimes these can feel worse than the original symptoms of anxiety. The withdrawal from the drug should be taken slowly to minimize any withdrawal symptoms. Some long-term effects of using these drugs can be linked with having panic attacks. The tranquillisers cannot tackle the causes of your problems, they can bring you some relief until some other treatments can be put into action.