Most people feel anxious or scared sometimes, but if it's affecting your life there are things you can try that may help.
Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with anxiety, fear or panic.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically, mentally and how you behave.
It's not always easy to recognise when anxiety is the reason you're feeling or acting differently.
- faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
- feeling lightheaded and dizzy
- chest pains
- loss of appetite
- feeling tense or nervous
- being unable to relax
- worrying about the past or future
- feeling tearful
- not being able to sleep
Changes in behaviour
- not being able to enjoy your leisure time
- difficulty looking after yourself
- problems concentrating at work
- struggling to form or maintain relationships
- worried about trying new things
Symptoms of a panic attack
If you experience sudden, intense anxiety and fear, it might be the symptoms of a panic attack. Other symptoms may include:
- feeling that you're losing control
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- shortness of breath or breathing very quickly
- feeling sick (nausea)
A panic attack usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes. They can be very frightening, but they're not dangerous and should not harm you.
If you're not sure how you feel, try our mood self-assessment.
Things you can try to help with anxiety, fear and panic
- try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor. You could also contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: email@example.com if you need someone to talk to
- use calming breathing exercises
- exercise – activities such as running, walking, swimming and yoga can help you relax
- find out how to get to sleep if you're struggling to sleep
- eat a healthy diet with regular meals to keep your energy levels stable
- consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other. Find out more about peer support on the Mind website
- listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
- search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps from the NHS apps library
- do not try to do everything at once – set small targets that you can easily achieve
- do not focus on the things you cannot change – focus your time and energy into helping yourself feel better
- do not avoid situations that make you anxious – try slowly building up time spent in worrying situations to gradually reduce anxiety
- try not to tell yourself that you're alone; most people experience anxiety or fear at some point in their life
- try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve anxiety as these can all contribute to poor mental health
Anxiety control training audio guide
In this 6-minute audio guide, Dr Chris Williams talks about how to relax and beat your anxieties, today and in the long term.
Media review due: 2 March 2021
Where to get NHS help for anxiety, fear and panic
Referring yourself for therapy
If you need more support, you can get free psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS.
You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you're struggling to cope with anxiety, fear or panic
- things you're trying yourself are not helping
- you would prefer to get a referral from a GP
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
- you or someone you know needs immediate help
- you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose
A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.
Causes of anxiety, fear and panic
There are many different causes of anxiety, fear or panic and it's different for everyone.
When you're feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
This can be helpful in some situations, but it might also cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating. In some people, it might cause a panic attack.
Regular anxiety, fear or panic can also be the main symptom of several health conditions. Do not self-diagnose – speak to a GP if you're worried about how you're feeling.
Identifying the cause
If you know what's causing anxiety, fear or panic, it might be easier to find ways to manage it.
Some examples of possible causes include:
- work – feeling pressure at work, unemployment or retirement
- family – relationship difficulties, divorce or caring for someone
- financial problems – unexpected bills or borrowing money
- health – illness, injury or losing someone (bereavement)
- difficult past experiences – bullying, abuse or neglect
Even significant life events such as buying a house, having a baby or planning a wedding could lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
You might find it hard to explain to people why you feel this way, but talking to someone could help you find a solution.
Find out more about the 5 steps to mental wellbeing.
Conditions related to anxiety, fear and panic
|feelings of anxiety that will not go away, anxiety is affecting your life||generalised anxiety disorder|
|overwhelming fear of something specific like an object, place or animal||phobias|
|regularly experiencing panic attacks||panic disorder|
|often reliving traumatic past experiences, nightmares and flashbacks||post-traumatic stress disorder|
Page last reviewed: 15 October 2019
Next review due: 15 October 2022