It’s normal for us to feel nervous, anxious or worry about stuff in our life from time to time, for example, starting school or moving to a new area. Symptoms of anxiety can include worries and fears that can lead to us avoiding certain things. It can also cause a physical response where we might feel short of breath, notice our heart racing, or feel sweaty and shaky. A little bit of anxiety is not always a bad thing and at times can even be helpful. But if it goes on for too long, gets too overwhelming or starts to interfere with parts of your life, then you may need to seek professional advice.
It’s good to be busy and have lots on. But if you notice you're finding it hard to switch off, relax or having trouble focusing, it may be down to stress. A bit of stress now and again is fine. It helps you perform under pressure, stay energetic and alert. But if it goes on too long you might start to burn out, feel overwhelmed or find it difficult to unwind.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
While it's normal to have fears and worries, sometimes this can develop in to generalised anxiety disorder which causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People affected by it feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
An obsession is an unwanted thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, distress or unease. Compulsions are the actions or rituals you carry out to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions. For example, someone with an obsessive fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.
Shyness is perfectly normal, but it can become a problem when everyday activities like seeing friends, going out in public or speaking on the phone causes intense, overwhelming fear. Young people affected by it tend to fear doing or saying something they think will be humiliating. It is generally more common for those who have gone through puberty.
It is common to be afraid of, or not like certain things; however a phobia is a really strong intense fear of something that causes a lot of anxiety. Phobias tend to get in the way of everyday life because people with phobias try to avoid being near whatever they are afraid of, for example, going in lifts or being around dogs.
Separation anxiety is when a child worries about not being with their parent or regular carer. It is common in young children, and normally develops at about six months of age. It can make settling into nursery or school or with a child minder very difficult. Separation anxiety in older children may be a sign that they’re feeling insecure about something – they could be reacting to changes at home, for example.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
After experiencing or witnessing something traumatic, you may develop strong feelings of anxiety, and experience flashbacks or nightmares which can feel like you’re re-living the event. This can be a natural reaction, however if it continues over a long period of time following the event, is causing you distress or impacting your life, then you may be suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may need to support to help overcome this.
A panic attack is an unexpected yet intense fear and anxiety in response to a situation or trigger that may not be obvious. It can come on without warning, and be quite scary if you do not understand what is happening. The physical symptoms can feel intense such as shortness of breath, a racing heart, and feeling sweaty shaky or sick. But the good news is that panic doesn’t harm you and will go away. If this happens to you repeatedly, you might have panic disorder and may need to support to help overcome this.