Anxiety is how your body and mind react to stressful, dangerous and unfamiliar situations. Anxiety is not always considered a bad thing as it helps us stay away from danger and makes us more alert. However, it becomes a bigger issue when it impacts on your ability to live life as full as you would like. Furthermore, when anxiety impacts on your day to day life, it can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Racing heart beat

Sweating more than normal


Rapid breathing, which is often shallow

Tense muscles


Feeling of panic and panic attacks

Dry mouth and/or difficulty swallowing


Difficulty getting to and staying asleep

Poor concentration

Upset tummy

Other health issue or illness flaring up, like asthma or dermatitis.

No interest in sex or low libido

Behavioural symptoms of anxiety

Feeling irritable

Always being in a bad mood

Avoiding situations or experiences that can trigger anxious feelings

Difficulty controlling worry

Feeling of impending doom, danger or panic

Needing constant reassurance

Being a perfectionist

Focusing on what can go wrong in any situation and being pessimistic

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by a number of factors and differ for each individual. However, common causes include trauma, illness and work.

Family history

Research has shown that if you have a close family member with anxiety you may be at a higher risk of developing anxiety. However, this is not specific to genetics and is about learned behaviours.


Difficulties which occur during childhood, adolescence and adulthood can trigger anxiety. For example, experiencing neglect as a child, bullying or losing a family member are all examples of possible anxiety triggers.


Work or being out of work can cause anxiety. For instance, financial worries, work place bullying or a lack of a work-life balance can all trigger or exacerbate anxiety.


Having a serious, long term or life threatening illness can cause or increase anxiety. Mental health conditions like depression can also increase anxiety levels.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs can increase anxiety levels. Both the misuse and withdrawal of drugs and alcohol can trigger and worsen anxiety.

When anxiety becomes a concern

Many people experience anxiety. However, there are many symptoms that can tell you that anxiety is becoming difficult to handle and support may be needed:
Feelings of anxiety are very strong and last a long time
Worries and fears are out of proportion with the situation

Worries are hard to control

Symptoms are experienced regularly

Enjoying life becomes challenging

Engaging in activities you like becomes difficult