What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a word used to describe feelings of worry or fear. Everyone feels anxious or worried from time to time. Anxiety is a natural response to situations that make us feel nervous or scared. For example, we might experience anxiety about an exam, meeting new people, or an operation or hospital appointment. Sometime, a bit of anxiety is good – it can help us to perform or prepare; but, feeling very anxious in everyday situations is less useful.

What happens when we feel anxious?

When we feel anxious or worried, it sets off an ‘alarm’ inside you and your body gets ready for danger or harm. Adrenaline – a chemical sent round your body – makes the heart beat faster and prepares different parts of our body to either fight or run away. This is called ‘fight or flight’. This is very helpful if we are in immediate danger. If you suddenly came face to face with a tiger – your adrenaline would kick in and you would run away as fast as you could. But if you want to run away when you come face to face with a person you don’t know, this is less helpful. 

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety is different for everyone. Here is a list of things you might notice happening if you feel anxious.

  • Feeling nervous and worried
  • Feeling like something awful is going to happen
  • Being scared about things, often for no real reason
  • Going over and over the same worries in your mind
  • Not being able to concentrate very well

You might notice some things about your body too:

  • Breathing faster 
  • Feeling like your heart is beating faster than normal 
  • Feeling sick or stomach ache
  • Headaches 
  • Sweating
  • Feeling like you might faint
  • Needing the toilet more often
  • Butterflies in your stomach 

When we feel anxious or worry a lot, it can make us feel scared that we won’t ever feel better about things. We might start to avoid doing things because we don’t like feeling anxious. We become anxious about being anxious.

There are some things you can do to help manage your anxiety. See our information on What can I do about my anxiety? and How can I relax?

What can I do about my anxiety?


How can I relax?


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