Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of worry, fear and panic. As well as these emotional feelings, people with anxiety might also experience physical (body) sensations such as a racing heart, breathing fast, sweaty hands, dry mouth and feeling shaky. Many people also have “what if” or negative thoughts when they are anxious.
Anxiety is a normal human response to feeling threatened or in danger, even if that threat or danger is a thought, image or memory. Anxiety can become a real problem if the thoughts, emotions (feelings) and physical sensations are very strong, happen even when there is no real danger or if it lasts for a long time.
Lots of people experience worry and anxiety although for some people it can impact on everyday life and get in the way of school/college, socialising and even home life.
All young people will worry and feel anxious from time to time.
In some cases children may develop an irrational fear of something specific. These are often referred to as phobias. Whilst we all experience irrational fears, with a phobia the sufferer feels extreme anxiety, even terror, at the thought of coming in contact with their feared thing or situation. The stronger the feeling of anxiety, the more likely we are to avoid the thing or situation.
Some children experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals which can be distressing if they start to take over their normal lives. They tend to be more common in children when another family member has a similar problem, and they are more likely to experience these difficulties when they are under stress or during significant life changes.
This is a general guide to help you know how best to support your young person if they are experiencing anxiety. This is not an exhaustive list; young people may experience symptoms which may not be included in this guide. If in doubt advice and guidance is available from the services listed below.