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A guide to anxiety and its treatment

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, and can be mild or severe. It can have many causes, such as pressure of work or family problems. Everyone feels anxious sometimes but having anxiety means that someone feels anxious at inappropriate times and finds it difficult to control their worries. Many people have anxiety. In Britain, about 1 in 20 adults have generalised anxiety and 1 in 100 have panic.

People with anxiety may feel apprehensive and tense. These feelings may be experienced not as emotions but as physical symptoms such as butterflies or cramps in the stomach, trembling, a fast heartbeat and/or sweating. Often the cause of these feelings, both physical and emotional, is unclear and people may think they are going mad, losing control or fainting. Other people fear that they may suffocate or have a heart attack or stroke, or that they have some other serious illness. Although understandable, such fears are groundless.

There are a number of anxiety disorders that can be difficult to distinguish from one another, including: 


People with panic sometimes feel panicky or anxious and may make changes to their life in order to avoid situations that make them feel this way.  They will not have these symptoms all of the time. People with panic sometimes also fear or avoid public spaces (this is known as agoraphobia). Sometimes, a person experiencing a panic attack may go to a hospital casualty (accident and emergency – A&E) department fearing that they are having a heart attack because their heart rate is so high.

Generalised anxiety

People with generalised anxiety have symptoms most of the time. These symptoms vary with different individuals but they include feeling constantly edgy, irritable or worried, having difficulty concentrating or having trouble sleeping.

Extract from 'Understanding NICE guidance - information for people with panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder, their families and carers and the public'.


More information about anxiety 



For information about medications prescribed to treat anxiety see the trust's Choice and Medication website.