What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is very common and affects both children and adults

Anxiety is used to describe feelings of worry and fear. It includes both emotional and physical sensations that you might experience when you get worried or nervous about something.

Anxiety is very common and affects both children and adults;. It is a normal human experience that everyone feels at some point in their lives, however it becomes a problem when the feelings become very strong and last for a long time.

What causes Anxiety?

It is not always possible to say exactly what causes anxiety. Anxiety disorders may be caused by environmental factors, medical factors, genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, or a combination of these. It is most commonly triggered by the stress in our lives and can affect your every day life. Examples of stress and worry that can be linked to anxiety listed below can affect some people however everyone is different:

  • pressure of school or work

  • bereavement

  • being abused

  • being diagnosed or living with a serious illness

  • intoxication from drug or alcohol abuse

  • having a phobia (see phobia section for further information)

  • having a brain disorder such as autism or ADHD

In some cases there may appear to be no apparent cause of anxiety.

The Symptoms

Anxiety differs from person to person, some people may only have a few symptoms where as some may have much more. Some of the physical symptoms can be:

  • nausea

  • tense muscles

  • pins and needles

  • light headed, including headaches or dizziness

  • faster breathing

  • a fast/thumping heart beat

  • raised blood pressure

  • difficulty sleeping

  • churning feeling at the bottom of your stomach

  • panic attack (see panic attack section for further information)

Anxiety can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think resulting in psychological symptoms such as:

  • nervousness

  • sense of dread

  • feeling constantly on the edge

  • thinking over situations again and again

  • feeling numb

  • irritable

  • environment appears to be getting slower or faster

Self Help

Anxiety can make day to day difficult to cope with. Often people isolate themselves away from the worries and fears of the outside world. What helps one person may not help another as everyone's fears and worries are different and we all cope with anxieties different as well. Here are a few ideas that you could try:

  • read self help materials i.e. books, leaflets or information online

  • concentrate on the here and now

  • talk to someone about how you feel

  • find out if it's a specific situation that makes your anxiety worse and set yourself targets of slowly facing these situations

  • practise breathing exercises, you can find out more information from your GP, counsellor or even look it up at your local library

  • review your diet as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and cigarettes can all contribute to anxiety, try to reduce these

  • look for self help/support groups, your GP will also be able to help you find one.


If you have tried some of the self help options and feel they aren't helping you, your anxiety has got worse, or even that you have relapsed into your old ways there is support available for you.

Your GP will be able to help, they can refer you to outside agencies that can offer you more help including counselling and psychotherapy.

The most effective treatment for more profound anxiety is CBT. CBT helps people to change their thinking patterns that prevent them from overcoming their fears and worries. It aims to help them to change their reactions to anxious situations.


Controlling anxiety is not easy and can be a long process over a long period of time. Some people learn to control their anxiety but it never goes away and although some people can go on to make a full recovery this can take a long time and a lot of hard work.

NHS Choices - Anxiety Disorders in children