Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like fear or worry. It can be mild or severe, and can sometimes be linked to panic attacks. Learn more about its symptoms, causes and the types of anxiety disorders.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is something we all feel when we're worried, tense or fearful. Everyone gets anxious from time to time, especially around things like job interviews or school exams. 

But if anxiety is severe and affects your daily life or leads to panic attacks, you may have an anxiety disorder.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Everyone feels anxiety differently, but there are some common symptoms that are both psychological and physical. 

Some of the psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of panic or fear

  • Feeling tense, nervous and always on edge

  • Racing thoughts you can't control

  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Having nightmares

  • Feeling disconnected, like you're out of touch with reality

  • Changes in appetite

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Sweating or hot flushes

  • Fast heartbeat or heart palpitations

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fast breathing

  • Dry mouth

  • Shaking or trembling

  • Muscle tension or aches and pains

  • Feeling tired or lacking energy

  • Stomach aches

  • Feeling sick

  • Needing to go the toilet lots

  • Headaches

For some people, if their anxiety is uncontrolled and they’re not receiving support or treatment, it can lead to depression. Speak to a doctor or healthcare professional if you’re worried about your anxiety symptoms.

What are the different types of anxiety?

If you're experiencing anxiety symptoms over a long time, and they're affecting your day-to-day activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Here are the 6 main types of anxiety disorders:

1. Generalised anxiety disorder

This is a long-term condition that causes regular feelings of anxiety about a wide range of issues or situations. The symptoms vary but may include feeling worried, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, dizziness, and heart palpitations.

2. Panic disorder

Panic disorder causes sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear that can last several minutes or longer. These attacks often happen for no reason. A person having a panic attack has a rush of mental and physical symptoms. They may feel as though they’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying.

3. Phobia

Phobias are an extreme fear of an object, animal, place, situation, or feeling. Some common phobias include claustrophobia (having a fear of confined spaces) and arachnophobia (having an intense fear of spiders).

4. Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia

People with social anxiety fear or dread social situations. It involves excessive worrying about everyday social activities, such as meeting people, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, going shopping, or working.

5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Someone with PTSD has experienced a very stressful, frightening, or distressing event. The condition often involves nightmares and flashbacks when they relive the traumatic event. People with PTSD often have feelings of guilt, isolation, and irritability. They may also suffer from depression.

6. Health anxiety

Health anxiety causes someone to feel extremely worried about their health and that they're about to get ill.

What causes anxiety?

Everyone's experience of anxiety is different, so it's hard to pinpoint the exact causes. There are lots of factors involved. 

Some day-to-day things that can trigger anxiety or anxiety attacks include:

  • Pressure at work and working long hours

  • Money problems

  • Relationship problems

  • Exhaustion

  • Feeling lonely or isolated

  • Dealing with a severe illness or injury

  • Being bullied, harassed, or abused

  • Experiencing other mental health problems, such as depression

Other common triggers of anxiety or an anxiety disorder include:

Certain medications can also trigger anxiety or anxiety attack symptoms, including psychiatric medications, medicines for certain physical health conditions, recreational drugs and alcohol.

How is anxiety treated?


If your anxiety symptoms are mild, then a self-help course or mental health app may help you control and improve your symptoms. You can find a wide range of mental health resources to download through the NHS. These include anxiety breathing exercises and other tools you can access while at home or on the go.

Lifestyle changes

Simple lifestyle changes can also make a big difference, and have been proven to ease anxiety. 

  • Try adding regular exercise and movement into your routine

  • Prioritise your sleep quality with a healthy bedtime routine

  • Eat a healthy diet to avoid spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels

  • Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake 

Psychological treatments

Talking therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can be very effective when helping with anxiety and anxiety disorders. Talking about your experiences and exploring coping strategies can really help to ease anxious feelings for some people.


If you have severe anxiety disorder symptoms, some anxiety medications can also be helpful. These include medicines that can reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, like tremors, or drugs such as antidepressants, which can improve mood and mental symptoms.

If your anxiety symptoms interfere with your daily life and activities, or you feel they're affecting you in any other way, speak to a doctor for help.

When should I speak to a doctor about anxiety?

If your anxiety symptoms are getting in the way of everyday life or stopping you from doing the things you enjoy, it’s best to seek help. 

You can speak to a doctor or healthcare professional who can talk to you about your symptoms, how they affect you, and whether there are any triggers to your anxiety that they can help you to improve. They may also refer you for talking therapy and you can decide whether this is for you.

If your symptoms are very severe, or you've already had psychological treatment, a doctor may recommend anxiety medication to manage your anxiety.

How can Livi help?

A healthcare professional at Livi can help to talk through your symptoms and potentially diagnose an anxiety disorder.


Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi