Anxiety can affect anyone. It takes a number of forms and different people are affected in different ways. Everyone feels anxious from time to time. This is normal, as it is a natural way of recognising danger. However, it can leave you feeling sad, upset and frustrated when it gets out of control and stops you doing things.
When anxiety starts making you feel like you can’t do things or you feel scared and panicked, you need to talk to someone and get help.
There are many signs of anxiety. Some of them will be things that you think and others will be physical reactions.
You might find you feel dizzy or shaky, feel sick, or feel faint. You could also have trouble sleeping and find it hard to concentrate. Feeling sick might mean you stop eating properly. You could also feel like your heart is beating really fast.
You might think you may go crazy, think about unpleasant things happening or worry that you can’t do something. Often these negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts, which makes the anxiety worse.
There are three main ways people experience anxiety. The first is generalised anxiety disorder. This means you worry a lot of the time and this worry makes it hard to do everyday things.
The second is phobias. This means you’re scared of something specific and get anxious about that situation or thing. This might mean you feel anxious when you have to take exams or tests.
The third is panic attacks. These happen when you’re feeling extremely anxious and are often unpredictable. They usually only last for about ten minutes but can be very scary. You can find it hard to breathe and feel out of control during a panic attack.
Sometimes people with anxiety have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is related to anxiety and means you become obsessed by certain thoughts and actions. You might constantly think about bad things happening to the people you love. Or you may feel like you need to do certain rituals like counting things or repeatedly washing your hands.
Often people with OCD find that carrying out their rituals makes them feel better for a little while. The symptoms of OCD can be quite mild, or they can be serious and stop you being able to do everyday things.
There are lots of things you can do to help with anxiety, panic attacks and OCD.
WHY DO I FEEL ANXIOUS?
There is no single reason people feel anxious. You could be worried about a specific thing, like exams, or you might feel anxious all the time. You might have what’s called social anxiety, which means you get very nervous when you’re with a group of people you don’t know very well.
The important thing is to know you’re not alone. Even if you feel like it’s hard to explain how you feel, talking to someone will help. You shouldn’t blame yourself for feeling anxious. But if it’s making your life hard or stopping you doing things you need to get some support.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I OFTEN FEEL ANXIOUS?
The first thing to do is talk to someone you trust. It might be one of your parents, a teacher, a school nurse or even an older brother or sister. Speaking to your doctor is also a good idea. They will be able to give you advice about local support groups, therapy and medication.
Remember that everyone’s anxiety is different and your doctor will suggest the best treatment for you. They might prescribe you antidepressant medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This can help you feel calmer and see things differently.
Your doctor might also recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a talking therapy that’s designed to help you understand your feelings, thoughts and behaviour. Your therapist will help you learn how to think differently about things. You might also learn relaxation techniques. Usually a CBT course runs for around four months, with hour-long sessions on a weekly basis.
HOW CAN I COPE WITH MY ANXIETY?
There are some self-help techniques that can help you cope with anxiety. Learning basic breathing techniques can help you calm down if you’re feeling anxious. Doing exercise can improve your mood and might make you feel better. Your doctor may also recommend some books to read. Often these will be based on CBT techniques and can teach you some ways of dealing with your anxiety.
Talking to someone you trust about how you feel is one of the best ways to cope with anxiety. If you find talking about your feelings hard, write them down and show them to someone. Always remember that it’s ok to ask for help.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE A PANIC ATTACK?
Panic attacks can be scary, but you need to try and stay calm. Remind yourself that you’re just having a panic attack and that it’s not something more serious. Focus on your breathing by taking deep, slow breaths. Try counting to three as you breathe in and out to help regulate your breathing. You can also focus on something that you can see that’s non-threatening. This will help you focus your attention away from your fear.
You could also try a technique called creative visualisation. This means focusing on positive thoughts and images instead of the negative ones. Try to think of a place or situation that makes you feel relaxed or peaceful. Once you have that in your mind, focus on it. Creative visualisation can take practice so you may need to work at it.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M WORRIED ABOUT A FRIEND WHO GETS ANXIOUS?
If you’re worried about a friend who gets anxious, make sure they know they can talk to you. Be kind to them and offer support. Understand that talking about anxiety can be difficult, so don’t pressure your friend into talking about it if they’re not ready.
If they do open up to you ask them how you can help make them feel less anxious. You should also support them to seek help from a doctor or therapist if they aren’t already. It can help to learn more about anxiety so that you can understand how they might be feeling.
Encourage them to do things with you, like outdoor activities and exercise, and just spend time with them. Knowing that they have a supportive friend will make a difference.
HOW CAN I COPE WITH EXAM STRESS?
Most of us get stressed when we’re taking exams, but if you become overly anxious about exams you need to get some help. Exam stress can mean you don’t study enough or that you miss exams completely because you get too anxious about them.
You might also feel very anxious during the exam itself. This can make your mind go blank or mean you start feeling as though everyone else taking the exam is finding it easy while you’re finding it really hard.
If you’re feeling overly stressed about your exams, talk to your parents or close friends. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Simple things like eating properly, getting a good night’s sleep and doing regular exercise can all help lower your stress levels.
Planning your revision can also help you manage your anxiety. Knowing that you’re prepared will help you feel more confident about the exam. When you’re planning your revision make sure you also include breaks where you can relax as studying all the time isn’t the answer.
Did you know?
-1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives
-Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health difficulties in 16-18 year olds
-About 75% of anxiety sufferers don’t get any kind of professional help
Anxiety UK is a national registered charity formed in 1970 by someone living with agoraphobia for those affected by anxiety disorders. Today we are still a user-led organisation, run by people with experience of living with anxiety or anxiety-based depression, supported by a high-profile medical advisory panel.
We’re the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. Find out more about us, our mission and how we work
The Wave Project started in 2010 as a voluntary group funded by the National Health Service in Cornwall. The initial aim was to use volunteers to provide one-to-one surfing lessons for young people with mental health issues as a way of getting them outside, doing physical exercise and feeling more confident about themselves.The first project achieved outstanding results.
No Panic is a registered charity which helps people who suffer from Panic Attacks, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and other related anxiety disorders including those people who are trying to give up Tranquillizers. No Panic also provides support for the carers of people who suffer from anxiety disorders. Severe anxiety and phobic disorders are a major and widespread problem. Recent surveys indicate that they affect up to 18% of the population of the United Kingdom.
Please be aware that this is NOT for emergency help. CLICK HERE for information on emergency help.