What does Anxiety feel like?


Almost everybody at some time is affected with feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human reaction to situations and is actually there to protect us.

Basically when we lived in the wild, thousands of years ago, we came under threat from all sorts of creatures and needed to be able to fight them or run away from them. This known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Our bodies would make lots of adrenalin so that we had enough energy to be able to fight the creature or run. But nowadays we don’t have creatures acting as a threat in the same way. Instead we have other pressures that can appear to be threatening.

Its quite normal to feel anxious before a driving test or an exam. These things can make use feel uncomfortable and we may want to do things that only make us feel comfortable because of the anxiety we may feel.

But this could make you feel unhappy and you may miss out on things that could be really good for you. For example, ringing somebody asking them if they have any jobs. This can make you feel uncomfortable, but if you avoid doing it you may miss out on a job you would really want.

In fact adrenalin can help us in those situations as we become extremely alert. But Anxiety has become a problem when we feel it over other things that aren’t threatening or stressful, such as answering the door/phone, going to the shops or visiting friends.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feeling frightened
  • nervous or panicky in certain non-threatening situations
  • problems sleeping and eating
  • being unable to concentrate on things
  • feeling tired and irritable.

Physically you may:

  • feel like your heart is racing or beating fast
  • dry mouth
  • feel shaky
  • feel faint
  • stomach cramps or diarrhoea
  • pins and needles in your hands and/or feet
  • sweat or feel like you are blushing
  • feel like your legs have turned to jelly

What is making me anxious?

Anxiety can be caused by lots of different things. It may be a stressful life events like moving house, exams or a bereavement. It may be the pressures you are under like family problems or money worries. It may be that you have always been a worrier and you have developed a habit of being worried, this is known as having an anxious personality.

It may be that you have began to avoid things, thinking that it will help you reduce your anxiety. In the short term it prevents you feeling the awful symptoms but in the long run, avoidance will become a habit and  affect your confidence in these situations. Click here to learn more about avoidant behaviour.

If you feel you are affected by anxiety, visit the Anxiety self help section and read about ways to get a better understanding of anxiety and how to use self help management techniques.

There are also things you can do to help you feel more relaxed and reduce the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety. Click here to read about correct and controlled breathing techniques, relation and distraction techniques.

Making lifestyle changes can also have a positive effect on anxiety. For example looking at how your food will affect your mood or how exercise can affect your mood.

You can also visit your GP who can also give you lots of information on what help and treatments are available.

Below are different local and national services that can offer you support. They are a mixture of helplines, websites and places in your area that can help.


Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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