Stress, anxiety and depression

Moodzone logo

Why do I feel anxious and panicky?

Anxiety

Media last reviewed: 12/05/2016

Next review due: 12/05/2018

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

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 549 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Help and support for young people

Mental health hub for young people with advice on depression, anxiety, self-harm, stress, bullying and eating disorders

Online mental health treatments

Flexible and effective NHS-approved treatments for depression, anxiety and more

Boost your mood with online therapy

Living Life To The Full is a practical course to learn coping skills for when life gets on top of you

Moodzone: Anxiety

Dr Chris Williams gives you advice to help stop worry and anxiety taking over your life. This podcast is one of an eight-part series for Moodzone.

Media last reviewed: 02/03/2015

Next review due: 02/03/2017

Services near you

Find emotional support services in your area

Ten ways to fight your fears

Whatever your fear is, these 10 tips can help you cope with your stress and anxiety

Dealing with panic attacks

Anxious? Dizzy? Heart racing? You could be having a panic attack. Get practical tips on how to cope