About Anxiety

Recent surveys in America indicate that 25% of the population experience symptoms severe enough to justify diagnosis of an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Stressful situations our everyday lives can lead temporary feelings of anxiety. What makes ‘anxiety’ diagnosable as an ‘anxiety disorder’ is the anxious thinking, feeling and behaviour continuing for weeks and starting to mess up work, social life, or home life.

Anxiety can vary from ‘mild’, which is uncomfortable and upsetting to ‘severe’, which can be disabling. When mental health professionals talk about anxiety they tend to talk about ‘anxiety disorders’ which all have common anxiety characteristics plus a particular focus. These include; panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder.

Common Characteristics of Anxiety Disorders

Anxious Thinking

Anxious thinking usually consists of ideas, internal self-talk and images that go through a persons mind around the time they feel anxious. The focus of anxious thinking is usually some kind of idea that the worst is likely to happen to you, or someone you know. (When mental health professionals talk about ‘anxious cognition’ they are talking about ‘anxious thinking’.)


One of the most common characteristics of anxiety is ‘fear’, which can range in intensity from mild apprehension to panic. We all experience fear in certain situations as a part of everyday life, however having fear interfere continually with our daily functioning doesn't have to be part of our everyday lives. Our experience of fear, as anxiety, can vary in intensity from worrying and feeling tense to and panic attacks that are so intense that people go to hospital thinking they are having a heart attack.

Physical Symptoms

The physical aspects of anxiety can include:

  • sleep disturbances
  • cold or clammy hands
  • racing heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • jitteriness
  • dry mouth
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • diarrhoea
  • muscular tension
  • restlessness
  • muscle aches
  • tension headaches

Anxious Behaviour

The most common kind of behaviour associated with anxiety is avoiding a situation that intensifies the feeling of fear or anxiety; for example feeling unable to pick up a spider in the bathtub or avoiding a place where an assault happened. Sometimes anxious behaviour can take on more complicated forms such as compulsions or rituals in which certain actions may be repeated excessively. Common anxious rituals include excessive cleaning, tidying and checking

Anxiety Disorders

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks (or acute fear) can include a sudden feeling of terror accompanied by: shaking/trembling, sweating, hot/cold flashes, faintness, unsteadiness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, disorientation, racing heart, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, dry mouth, and numbness in different part of the body. Thoughts during panic attacks usually focus on ideas about losing control, going crazy, or dying.


Phobic behaviour involves an intense feeling that something, or some situation, is threatening when clearly it isn’t a hazard. Social phobic thinking is concentrated on social situations and the possibility of disapproval, failing, or embarrassment. Agoraphobic thoughts usually circle around a belief that certain sensations or situations are going to trigger a full-blown panic attack, and that another person is needed to be present in order to avoid one.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive thinking often includes the inability to stop thinking about a particular idea such as contamination, germs, illness, death, sex, religion, personal responsibility or losing control. Compulsive behaviour involves actions that are excessively repeated even though it doesn't make sense to repeat them (except to the extent that there is a fear that the worst may happen if the ritual isn’t repeated.) Common anxious rituals include excessive cleaning, tidying and checking.

Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD usually includes flashbacks from a traumatic event, may also involve nightmares and sometimes thinking about somehow being responsible for the traumatic event.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety is almost constant worry about what might happen in many areas of a person's life (e.g. family, health, financial, etc.).

Anxiety and Children

Children may express anxiety as fear of being harmed by monsters, darkness, or something bad happening to the people they love.

Anxiety and Depression

More than 50% of people who suffer with anxiety also report experiencing depression at times.

Anxiety and Alcohol and Drugs

Anxious people sometimes resort to alcohol or recreational drugs to feel calmer.

Are you experienced in helping anxious people cope better and recover?


Phone Harry Norman on 0117 968 2417 to ask any questions or make an appointment

Harry Norman Partnerships Medical Centre 17 Stoke Hill Stoke Bishop Bristol BS9 2JN