Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease.Oxford Living Dictionaries. (2017). ‘Definition of anxiety in English’. [online] Available at: [accessed 28 Sept. 2017].

It is normal to get nervous in some situations, such as before tests or when starting a new job.

However if anxious feelings are stronger than usual, last a long time, and hamper your everyday life, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.Marsh, L. (2015). Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks. [online] London: Mind. Available at: [accessed 28 Sept. 2017].NHS Choices. (2017). ‘Why do I feel anxious and panicky?’ [online] Available at: [accessed 28 Sept. 2017].

Symptoms of anxiety

There are many different physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. Some of these include:

Mental symptoms

  • Feeling tense, nervous, or on edge
  • Feeling a sense of dread
  • Feeling like other people are looking at you
  • Being unable to ‘switch off’ (having a ‘racing mind’)
  • Persistently negative thoughts

Physical symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fast breathing
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Needing the toilet more or less than usual

As well as these, anxiety is often accompanied by other mental health issues, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Different types of anxiety

Anxiety can range from mild to severe, and its severity can change from day to day, week to week, month to month, and so on.

There are also some specific types, although you do not have to fit into any of these particular categories to be diagnosed with anxiety:

A panic attack is an intense rush of physical and mental anxiety symptoms.

You may experience:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweatiness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • A choking sensation

Some people think that they are having a heart attack, or even that they are going to die. But while it may feel that something is seriously wrong, panic attacks are not in themselves dangerous.

A panic attack usually lasts between 5 and 20 minutes.

Panic disorder is a severe form of anxiety characterised by recurring panic attacks over a period of time.

A generalised sense of fear and anxiety, for no specific reason, experienced over a sustained period.

An intense fear of a specific thing, often something which is unlikely to be dangerous, such as crowds, spiders, or heights.

Recurrent symptoms of anxiety linked to specific traumatic events in our lives.

Recurrent and compulsive thoughts or behaviours in response to feelings of anxiety, which can adversely affect our daily lives. For instance, feeling the need to wash your hands repeatedly, or to check that a door has been locked.

Anxiety and over-caring

Anxiety is often linked to an over-caring personality, which can create and foster feelings of anxiety or insecurity.

There are different manifestations of over-caring, such as:

  • Performance anxiety
    • Over-caring about how we perform
  • Perfectionism
    • Over-caring about making things perfect
  • Over-attachment
    • Over-caring about another person

Over-caring can lead to behaviour which in turn produces further anxiety, such as:

  • Projection
    • Anxious thoughts and mental images of the future
  • Expectancy
    • Having high expectations that aren’t met
  • Comparisons
    • Unhealthy measurements of ourselves against others