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Feeling anxious is usually a perfectly normal response to worrying things happening around us. We can all feel anxious at different times about our health, relationship or family problems, money concerns, or problems at work.

However for some people the feeling can become overwhelming and excessive. This can be felt as a constant general feeling of worry or a more sudden overwhelming sensation of panic, known as a panic attack or anxiety attack.

If you or someone you know is struggling cope with high levels of anxiety, you should first of all seek help from your GP. Your GP will be able to suggest some coping strategies, such as relaxation exercises, and may also refer you for counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. In some cases, your GP might prescribe medication to help relieve some of your symptoms.

Anxiety can be divided into a number of different disorders - the main ones are:-

Generalised anxiety disorder

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by a feeling of constant and excessive worry about everyday problems. It is a fairly common disorder affecting one in 20 adults in Britain. It tends to affect women more than men.

Panic attacks

Panic attacks (or anxiety attacks) can be very scary, especially if you've never had one before. It is an overpowering feeling of panic which exceeds a normal fearful response to something scary. Though it can feel as though you are seriously ill, you should reassure yourself that you are not. You should try to remind yourself that it won't last long. Most panic attacks only last between five and 20 minutes.

If you're having a panic attack, you might experience some of the following symptoms:

  • increased heart rate
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling of dread or feeling like you're dying
  • churning stomach or nausea
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • shivering/shaking/chills
  • dry mouth
  • numbness or tingling

Panic disorder

Around one in 10 adults in Britain experience a panic attack at some point. Only when these attacks occur frequently and are followed by a prolonged period of anxiety about further attacks, a diagnosis of panic disorder may be made.

Social anxiety or social phobia

Some people's anxiety is specific to social situations. This is called social phobia or social anxiety disorder and is a very common form of anxiety. People with social anxiety may dread everyday activities that involve talking to other people, have low self-esteem, avoid eye-contact and be very afraid of criticism. Social phobia can make people feel very lonely and isolated because they avoid contact with others.

You can get access to local NHS psychological services through your GP (family doctor) or practice nurse. Your local NHS psychological therapies service provides therapy and mental health services for people with mild to moderate mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, as well as feelings related to change, bereavement, and personal and family problems.

Details for your local services are:-

CNWL NHS has put together a short film to remind local residents in the London boroughs of Brent, Kensington and Chelsea, Harrow, Hillingdon and Westminster, how to access its talking therapies services.

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.

Easy Read

South West London and St Georges NHS have produced an easy-to-read leaflet about Anxiety which may particularly useful for people with learning disabilities.

Good Thinking is an online wellbeing website which provides a range of resources to help Londoners improve their mental wellbeing, including dealing anxiety with free NHS-approved apps, articles, blogs, podcasts, self-assessments, videos and workbooks.

Please see the Other information and Advice page for organisations and services that support people with experience of mental health issues. 

Last updated: 30/06/2021