Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their life, this could be related to a variety of things such as: health, finances, work, or relationships. It is also possible to feel anxious without being able to identify the cause.
If you are finding yourself feeling anxious most of the time, or it is impacting on your ability to do everyday tasks, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
When anxiety becomes overwhelming it can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things, resulting in symptoms such as:
- a sense of dread
- feeling constantly "on edge"
- difficulty concentrating
Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact to avoid feelings of worry and dread. You may also find going to work difficult and stressful, and may take time off sick. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and reduce your self-esteem.
You may also experience a range of physical symptoms including:
- a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- muscle aches and tension
- trembling or shaking
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- stomach ache
- feeling sick
- pins and needles
Watch this short video that explains the causes, symptoms and treatment of an anxiety:
Coping with different types of anxiety:
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the feeling of being anxious about almost everything and anything. Often, people affected by GAD will feel overly worried about a wide range of things relating to a variety of topics including health, money, work, school and relationships and sometimes may not even be able to identify a reason that they feel anxious.
GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include:
- feeling restless or worried
- having trouble concentrating or sleeping
- dizziness or heart palpitations
The below video explains the causes, symptoms and treatment of GAD.
Things you can try to reduce generalised anxiety disorder:
- Going on a self-help course
- Mindfulness - you may find relaxation and breathing exercises helpful. Why not join Peter Helmer, our mindfulness practitioner at his free weekly mindfulness sessions?
- Exercising regularly - regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, may help you combat stress and release tension.
- Stopping smoking - Smoking and alcohol have been shown to make anxiety worse. Visit our substance use self-help resource page for tips to help reduce or quit smoking.
- Cutting down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink - Drinking too much caffeine can make you more anxious than normal. Visit our nutrition self-help resource page for healthy eating tips.
Support groups can give you advice on how to manage your anxiety.They're also a good way to meet other people with similar experiences.
Examples of support groups you may find useful include:
Support groups can often arrange face-to-face meetings, where you can talk about your difficulties and problems with other people or some provide support and guidance over the phone or in writing.
Ask your GP about local support groups for anxiety in your area, or search online for mental health information and support services near you.
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations, it can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life.
You may have social anxiety if you:
- worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
- avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties
- always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
- find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you're being watched and judged all the time
- fear being criticised, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
- often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
- have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes.
Watch this short video that explains common symptoms and treatment.
Things you can try to overcome social anxiety
Self-help can help reduce social anxiety and you might find it a useful first step before trying other treatments.
The following tips may help:
- try to understand more about your anxiety – by thinking about or writing down what goes through your mind and how you behave in certain social situations, it can help to keep a diary
- try some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises for stress
- break down challenging situations into smaller parts and work on feeling more relaxed with each part
- try to focus on what people are saying rather than just assuming the worst
Signs of social anxiety in a child include:
- crying or getting upset more often than usual
- getting angry a lot
- avoiding interaction with other children and adults
- fear of going to school or taking part in classroom activities, school performances and social events
- not asking for help at school
- being very reliant on their parents or carer
Speak to a GP if you're worried about your child. They'll ask you about your child's behaviour and talk to them about how they feel.
Treatments for social anxiety in children are similar to those for teenagers and adults, although medicines are not normally used.
Therapy will be tailored to your child's age and will often involve help from you. You may be given training and self-help materials to use between sessions. It may also take place in a small group.
Health anxiety (sometimes called hypochondria) is when you spend so much time worrying you're ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life.
- constantly worry about your health
- frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain
- are always asking people for reassurance that you're not ill
- worry that a doctor or medical tests may have missed something
- obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media
- avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes
- act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities)
Things you can try to overcome health anxiety
Keep a diary
- note how often you check your body, ask people for reassurance, or look at health information
- try to gradually reduce how often you do these things over a week
Challenge your thoughts
- draw a table with 2 columns
- write your health worries in the 1st column, then more balanced thoughts in the 2nd
- for example, in the 1st column you may write, "I'm worried about these headaches" and in the 2nd, "Headaches can often be a sign of stress"
Keep busy with other things
- when you get the urge to check your body, for example, distract yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend
Get back to normal activities
- try to gradually start doing things you've been avoiding because of your health worries, such as sports or socialising
If a GP diagnoses you with health anxiety, they may refer you for:
- NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) - find your local service
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or offer you a medicine for anxiety.
- Book: Overcoming Health Anxiety self help resource based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It provides information on a range of techniques to look at the thoughts and behaviours that keep health anxiety going.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. It can be very distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control.
- An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
- A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to do to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
Watch this short video that explains common symptoms and treatment
Living with OCD can be difficult. In addition to getting medical help, you might find it helps to contact a support group or other people with OCD for information and advice.
The following websites may be useful sources of support:
OCD Action, OCD-UK and TOP UK can also let you know about any local support groups in your area.
If you're having lots of panic attacks at unpredictable times and there doesn't seem to be a particular trigger or cause, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. It's common to experience panic disorder and certain types of phobia together. People who experience panic disorder may have some periods with few or no panic attacks, but have lots at other times.
Watch this short video that explains common symptoms and treatment.
Things you can try during a panic attack
- Focus on your breathing: it can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
- Stamp on the spot: some people find this helps control their breathing.
- Focus on your senses: for example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft. Or try focus on positive, peaceful and relaxing images.
- Try grounding techniques: grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They're especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.
After a panic attack
- Think about self-care: it's important to pay attention to what your body needs after you've had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
- Tell someone you trust: if you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you've had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you're having another one, and how you'd like them to help you.
Preventing a further panic attack
It may help to:
- read a self-help book for anxiety based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Have a look at our self-help materials further below for suggestions.
- try complementary therapies such as massage and aromatherapy, or activities like yoga and pilates, to help you relax. Visit our physical health category for more.
- learn breathing techniques or join a mindfulness group to help ease symptoms
- do regular physical exercise to reduce stress and tension
- avoid sugary food and drinks, caffeine and alcohol, and stop smoking, as all they can all make attacks worse
Have a look at our Panic Attacks self-help resource page for more information and self-help materials.
Panic attacks or having panic disorder can have a big impact on your life, but support is available. It might help to speak to other people with the same condition, or to connect with a charity.
You may find the following links useful:
You can also ask your GP about support groups for panic disorder near you.
Having anxiety at work can have a huge impact on you and your career. People who feel anxious at work might even make career decisions based on their anxiety. For example, you might feel like you have to turn down a promotion if it involves more managing, public speaking, or travelling to new places.
Signs of workplace anxiety
- Notice a drop in performance
- Excessive missed days of work
- Not appearing engaged in work
- Physical complaints, like sweating, upset stomach, and not sleeping well (without another explanation)
- Poor job productivity
If you notice any of these signs, it can be helpful to take a look at how you’re feeling throughout the workday.
The root cause of anxiety at work depends on the person. For some people, extra-long work hours, high stress, a lack of support from managers and co-workers, and related factors can lead to someone developing anxiety at work.
Other situations that might make you anxious include:
- Dealing with issues at work
- Giving presentations
- Keeping up with personal relationships
- Meetings, staff lunches, and office parties
- Meeting and setting deadlines
- Speaking up during meetings
Keep a log to figure out what type of anxiety you’re having - start by tracking moments where you feel uncomfortable or anxious during the workday.
Be organised - although clearing your computer and desk might not seem high priority, staying organized will do wonders for you in the long run.
Communicate - ask for help if you need it. If you have too much to handle, speak up. Your manager might not realize you’re spread too thin.
Be honest with yourself - if you don’t have enough time for it, don’t take on tasks, projects, and assignments you don’t have the time to handle.
Celebrate your successes - before moving to the next task or project, take a second to celebrate your work and thank the people who helped you.
Prepare and plan - if you have any major projects, get started on them early and set mini deadlines for yourself. It can also help to prepare for issues that might crop up and try to prevent them.
Set clear boundaries - don’t bring work home with you. For example, make it a rule not to check your voicemail or work email once you leave the workplace.
Take breaks when you need to - try some deep-breathing techniques or take a walk to clear your head. This also includes taking annual leave. Chances are, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to it once you return.
Tell a co-worker you trust - having someone at work who knows about your anxiety can be comforting, and it might ease some of that stress and fear.
Remember you can talk to one of our Keeping Well practitioners if you need any further help or support.
Having workplace anxiety can sometimes lead to feeling stress or burnout. If you often experience feelings of stress in the workplace, it might want to visit our coping with stress and burnout page.
Today, the news sits in our pockets, bags, and desks, via smart devices and laptops making it hard to avoid
News can cause us to feel an array of emotions, including happy, angry, sad, curious, upset.
Social media and online news coverage often covers negative reports and stories. Negative news generates increased levels of cortisol in our bodies (your body’s main stress hormone) leading to heightened levels of anxiety which we are not designed to sustain. This can lead to potential physical and mental health problems or unhealthy habits including:
- ‘Doom-scrolling’ websites and social media feeds
- Checking your phone or other devices every few minutes
- Unable to focus or concentrate on tasks
- Sense of hopelessness
- Social isolation
How to cope with news anxiety
Only check your phone at certain times of the day. Psychological research shows that human beings cannot multitask effectively. If you struggle at not looking at your phone, you can try, keeping it in another room, turning off notifications, switching your phone off?
Reconfigure your tech settings. You have the power. You can control your social media and news intake by, using a site-blocker to control the hours you can visit certain websites including news sites, Turning off pop-up notifications on social media, setting your phone and computer to offline mode when focusing.
Choose how you respond to distressing news. News can be very upsetting, but you can decide how to respond. You could, talk to a friend or loved one about how you’re feeling, practice mindfulness or another meditation to help reset your mind, step away from your phone and other devices for short or longer periods, go outside for a walk or a run – any physical activity can help or get involved with a community activity to support something you care about?
Interrogate your thoughts. Challenge unhelpful thinking and put your thoughts on trial. You could ask yourself: why do I feel this way? Is this something I can control? If not, what can I do to help myself? What have I done before that makes me feel better when this happens? What haven’t I tried yet?
Ask for professional help when you need it. If you are finding the news is negatively impacting your mental health, then you should always ask for help from a professional.
Take a self-assessment questionnaire
If you are unsure about needing further support, you might want to complete the self-assessment questionnaires on low mood to find out more about your symptoms.
Anxiety: an NHS self help guide
In this self-help guidebook they provide information on what anxiety is, signs that you may be suffering from anxiety, causes of anxiety, how to manage anxiety, reducing physical symptoms, altering thoughts related to anxiety, changing behaviours related to anxiety, what treatment options are available and useful organisations/resources.An easy read version is also available to download here.
Just Ask a Question (JAAQ) website
Get answers on mental health from world leading experts and those with lived experience on the JAAQ website, over 50,000 questions on over 60 health and wellness topics.
Centre for Clinical Interventions worksheets
This resource has modules to work through which can be used at your own pace, information sheets including ways to improve how you feel and analysing your thinking and thought diary worksheets.
Mental wellbeing audio guide
Mental wellbeing audio guide on how to take control of your anxiety.
Anxiety UK is a charity with support groups, information about anxiety, and free anxiety resources.
Webinar: Managing anxiety
Watch this webinar about managing your anxiety
We recognise that our healthcare colleagues in North West London are from a variety of culturally-diverse backgrounds, with many cultures having unique and specific information on mental health disorders.
We have linked some free trauma psychoeducation resources translated into a number of languages for our colleagues.
We recommend NHS-approved apps to help reduce anxiety (many of which are free if you live or work in London), including:
Be Mindful (free)
A clinically proven online mindfulness course approved by the NHS, Be Mindful helps you to manage anxiety through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
Daylight provides digital therapy for worry and anxiety.
Meditainment uses established guided meditation and visualisation techniques, leading you on imaginative journeys to dreamlike destinations to explore and reflect on a range of wellbeing topics.
MyCognition PRO (free)
By using this NHS-approved programme for 15 minutes a day, you can optimise your cognitive health, mental wellbeing and resilience to stress.
My Possible Self (free)
This clinically proven app can help you to understand and identify the causes of your anxiety so you can learn coping mechanisms and manage future situations better.
tomo is expertly designed to support you with many of life's obstacles, including social anxiety. The app combines digital peer support with the best of social media and proven therapeutic techniques.
A safe and confidential space to share experiences and gain support from our community and qualified professionals.
For managers and team leaders
As managers and team leaders showing concern and approaching situations with caution and understanding creates a safe environment for your team. Supporting an employee with anxiety has a significant impact on their attitude towards work and how they perform.
Here are some tips you can try to support employeers with anxiety:
Encourage employees to use support wellbeing services
Reminding employees about the mental health benefits available to them can help. Normalising anxiety being common, and encouraging your workforce to get help when needed is also a good idea. Visit our Keeping Well Academy page for list of support services available to staff across North West London.
Create a friendly environment
The atmosphere in our work environment can often dictate the mood amongst employees. Toxic work environments can fast become breeding grounds for anxiety disorders or depression and can often stem from an unhealthy workplace culture.
Have an open door policy
Many who experience anxiety at work fear talking to a manager and opening up about how they feel to then find themselves with exasperated symptoms. It's important for employees to feel comfortable speaking with you about issues they are facing at work.
Adopt a confidentiality policy
Once an employee opens up about any concern of theirs, whether physical or mental, it is really important you ensure any information on the matter is kept strictly confidential. Unless you believe the individual or someone is in danger. Ensure all conversations with anyone about their mental health is done in a private and comfortable space and consider the employees’ well being throughout the entire process.
When managing an employee with anxiety, it’s okay for you to make a plan outlining what you expect of them during that time. Keeping in mind that the goal is to remove uncertainty or tangibles that may increase stress or anxiety, it is not about trying to pin them down or force more challenging expectations on them. This also means being thoughtful about when to approach particular topics.
It is really important for employers to adopt a flexible working style. An employee suffering with anxiety may require additional time for assignments or need small adjustments to be made in their workload or hours. Under the Equality Act, it’s key that you also consider reasonable adjustments for the employee so they’re not at a disadvantage at work. Adjustments must be tailored to the individual, with anxiety in particular it depends on what is causing the anxiety. This guidance published by the NHS may also help with approaching reasonable adjustments.
Provide constructive feedback
Providing additional constructive feedback to an employee suffering with anxiety helps them to better manage their goals and expectations.
In some cases, regular reviews can also lead to increased anxiety. Therefore, it is especially important as an employer you focus on what the individual is doing well in, and provide support in areas of improvement.
The Keeping Well Academy
Managers and team leaders can find further tools and resources via our Keeping Well Academy pages.
The Keeping Well Academy aim is to help health and social care colleagues to create and maintain organisational cultures and environments that foster psychological care and promote wellbeing.
Mind have created this useful guide with simple, practical and inexpensive steps that any organisation can take to support staff at every stage of the mental health spectrum – whether they’re stressed or have a diagnosed mental health condition.