Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of worry, fear and panic. As well as these emotional feelings, people with anxiety might also experience physical (body) sensations such as a racing heart, breathing fast, sweaty hands, dry mouth and feeling shaky. Many people also have “what if” or negative thoughts when they are anxious.
Anxiety is a normal human response to feeling threatened or in danger, even if that threat or danger is a thought, image or memory. We all experience anxiety from time to time. Anxiety can become a real problem if the thoughts, emotions (feelings) and physical sensations are very strong, happen even when there is no real danger or if it lasts for a long time.
Lots of people experience worry and anxiety although for some people it can impact on everyday life and get in the way of school/college, socialising and even home life. The types of anxiety that are most common but cause a lot of distress include:
Worries about what other people think of you or worries about being judged negatively and not feeling good enough
Worries about bad things happening to you or the people you love and care about
Uncontrollable constant worry about lots of things (like school, the future, health, world events)
Worries about your safety and health (including worries about germs and contamination)
Phobias (big fears) about specific things
Worries that you are responsible for bad things happening
Feeling the need to complete certain routines, rituals or behaviour to stop bad things from happening (commonly known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
If anxiety has become a problem for you, there is lots you can do to manage and cope.
Check out the ‘what to do’ workbooks which young people and families can use and can be downloaded from this page. These provide information and practical strategies to help you manage. It’s important to remember we can’t get rid of anxiety (or any other emotion) but we can learn how to cope and manage with it.
Worries and anxiety are common; everyone worries so it’s important to remember you are not alone. Some worries may seem very real and very scary. Tell someone how you are feeling no matter what your worries are, even if you are worried about doing so. There will be someone who will listen and try to support you.
Although anxiety feels horrible, remember these feelings will pass and the physical sensations cannot harm you. Remind yourself that you have been anxious before, that those feelings passed, that you coped and were ok. If you need to, use activities, such as watching TV, spending time with friends, reading, making things and listening to music, to help manage until you feel a bit better.
You cannot avoid all the things that make you feel anxious so face your FEARs with confidence following these four steps;
Focus – rather than worry about the past, future or the unknown, focus on the present moment, the here and now
Expose – the more you face your fears the easier it will become to manage
Approach – the fear of experiencing anxiety is often worse than the situation you are avoiding. Face your fear and see for yourself that the situation probably isn’t as bad as you are predicting
Rehearse – practice anxiety management techniques.