Stress, anxiety and depression

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Why do I feel anxious and panicky?

Anxiety

Media last reviewed: 16/09/2014

Next review due: 16/09/2016

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. Everyone feels anxious at some point in their life, but for some people it can be an ongoing problem.

A little bit of anxiety can be helpful; for example, feeling anxious before an exam might make you more alert and improve your performance. But too much anxiety could make you tired and unable to concentrate.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can have both psychological and physical symptoms. Psychological symptoms can include:

  • feeling worried or uneasy a lot of the time
  • having difficulty sleeping, which makes you feel tired
  • not being able to concentrate
  • being irritable
  • being extra alert
  • feeling on edge or not being able to relax
  • needing frequent reassurance from other people
  • feeling tearful

When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These cause the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • a pounding heartbeat
  • breathing faster
  • palpitations (an irregular heartbeat)
  • feeling sick
  • chest pains
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling faint
  • needing the toilet more frequently
  • "butterflies" in your tummy

Anxiety can also be a symptom of another condition, such as panic disorder (when you have panic attacks) or post-traumatic stress disorder, which is caused by frightening or distressing events.

Is anxiety bad for you?

A little anxiety is fine, but long-term anxiety may cause more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension). You may also be more likely to develop infections. If you’re feeling anxious all the time, or it’s affecting your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.

Help for anxiety and panic

There are effective treatments available for anxiety and panic disorders, so do talk to your GP if you think you may benefit from them.

You could also consider using an online mental health service, such as FearFighter. You may be able to get this free on the NHS  ask your GP or mental health professional, or contact the service directly to find out.

Page last reviewed: 15/04/2015

Next review due: 15/04/2017

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Comments

The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Bcalm said on 26 February 2015

Anxiety tricks you into thinking there is all sorts wrong with your body but most of the time it's the tension that is causing all these symptoms. I have proved this to myself because when the panic feelings pass( and they will) then the aches pains and tension vanishes too. You've just got to hang in there and believe that you will feel better soon even though what you are going through feels like hell . Try and do everything as normal and don't let the fear overwhelm you. It's very difficult but it is achievable just hang in there. It's just a bully and should be treated as such. Good luck everyone!

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YongZhong said on 30 December 2013

Hello, I have been suffering from anxiety for around 1 and a half weeks now, and I can't seem to eat food and live my everyday normal life.

My heart races a lot and I have a lot of panic attacks and have no energy, I also can't seem to socialize and have a joke with my friends and family... I have had 3 episodes of being anxious/panicky and depressed but this is by far the worst I've had out of all of them.

I'm not really sure of the triggers either because on Christmas Eve I didn't sleep and then was sick... My stomach has sharp pains and just cannot seem to relax.

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scott1988 said on 04 December 2013

Hi, stresshead.... I feel the exact same way.. Have you been to the doctors yet?

Scott

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stresshead36 said on 14 November 2013

I'm pretty sure I've been suffering from anxiety for over a year now, but it seems to be getting worse.

Every single day I feel what I can only describe as pressure on my chest, I can relieve it slightly by rubbing my shoulders but it feels like I need a constant massage to make it go away. It makes me feel edgy, irritable and stressed. I used to be able to forget about if I was distracted, busy, meeting and chatting to people, but even now, i can feel it there when I'm out and about. I also now get the odd feeling like tingling going up my throat, in my teeth and feels sometimes like there is a restriction in my throat. I get tingling in my hands and feet too.

I find day to day life a struggle, I am a stay at home mum to two girls, whilst I love that, I lose my temper at the smallest thing, and don't think I cope as well as I should.

I worry constantly about my health, worry that something bad is going to happen, its starts off in the morning thinking, today will be the day I drop down dead, or pass out or something, I worry about the embarrassment of it all, but as the day goes on, and nothing bad happens I try and reason with myself that its just stress and I'm fine. The sometimes get the odd chest pain, and palpitations that freak me out, and make me think again that there is more to it.

I worry constantly about money, I craze my husband everyday about it, which I think is the cause, and certainly doesn't help.

People wouldn't know I suffer like this, I put on a good front and muddle through, but I hate it, and am never feeling well or good. I know I should get help, but I'm afraid to in case it is something sinister know with me. I want to get help, I think even talking to someone about it will lift this weight off my shoulders

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Media last reviewed: 02/03/2015

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