It is used to describe feelings of worry, fear and unease. Typically, it incorporates both the emotional and physical sensations we experience when worried or nervous. Anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response and, while unpleasant, this is a normal reaction when our body perceives a threat.

We will all feel anxious at some time and it’s very common to feel tense or unsure about a potentially stressful situation, such as an exam, starting a new job, or moving home. However, some of us will be affected more than others. Despite being a normal experience, if these feelings are very strong or are lasting a long time, it can be overwhelming.

This fact-sheet will help you understand anxiety as a mental health problem and when to seek help. We will explore these common disorders and the treatment available, including counseling.

What is anxiety?

It can make you imagine things are worse than they are and prevent you from carrying out everyday tasks, or even leaving the house. Where stress is something that will come and go, anxiety can affect a person even if the cause is unclear.

When under stress, our ‘fight or flight’ response will turn on. This acts as an internal alarm system, designed to protect us from danger in the wild. These days, we can recognize this system through the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ we feel when we’re nervous. Anxiety, however, may cause this response to activate at inappropriate moments. You may feel this during normal, non-threatening situations.

"If we keep adding stressors to the bucket (even tiny ones, like the school 
run or commuting to work), over time it fills up until one day it overflows. 
This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains why sometimes it 
can seem to come out of the blue, with no significant trigger."

When is the right time to seek help?

Anxiety is a problem that can get worse if the stressors continue to build up. People may feel ashamed to ask for help, or believe that it’s not ‘that big a problem’ thus covering their feelings and dealing with it alone. It’s important to know that you deserve support and as lonely as you feel, people care. If you’re not comfortable talking to a loved one, there are many other platforms available. Online support groups and anxiety counselling give you the opportunity to talk to people who understand you.

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