What is anxiety? It is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear.

Anxiety incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. The feeling is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.

We all know what it’s like to feel anxious from time to time. It’s common to feel tense and nervous. Also fearful at the thought of a stressful event or decision you’re facing. For example:

  • sitting an exam
  • starting a new school, college or university
  • going into hospital
  • attending an interview
  • starting a new job
  • ending a relationship
  • moving house or moving away from home
  • being diagnosed with an illness

In situations like these, it’s understandable to have worries about how you will perform or what the outcome will be. For a short time, you might even find it hard to sleep, eat or concentrate. Then usually, after a short while or when the situation has passed, the feelings of worry stop.

The ‘Fight or Flight’ response

Like all other animals, human beings have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from dangerous situations. When you feel under threat, your body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The hormones help physically prepare you to either fight the danger or flight or run away from it. These hormones can:

  • make you feel more alert, so you can act faster.
  • increase your heart beat faster to carry blood quickly to where it’s needed most.

When you feel the danger has passed, your body releases other hormones to help your muscles relax, which may cause you to shake.

This is commonly called the ‘fight or flight’ response.  It is something that happens automatically in our bodies. We have no control over it.  Normally, we don’t usually face situations where we need to physically fight or flee from danger. However our biological response to feeling threatened is still the same.

When anxiety becomes a mental health problem

Anxiety is a normal human experience. It is sometimes hard to know when it’s becoming a problem for you. If your feelings of anxiety are very strong, or last for a long time, it can be overwhelming.

For example:

  • You might find that you’re worrying all the time. Perhaps about things that are a regular part of everyday life, or about things that aren’t likely to happen. Or even worrying about worrying.
  • Also, you might regularly experience unpleasant physical and psychological effects of anxiety, and maybe panic attacks.

Depending on the kind of problems you experience, you might be given a diagnosis of a specific anxiety disorder.

“Going out of the house is a challenge because I have a fear of panicking and feel that I’m being watched or judged. It’s just horrible. I want to get help but I’m afraid of being judged.”

If anxiety is affecting your ability to live your life the way you’d like to, it’s worth thinking about ways to help yourself, and what kind of treatments are available. 

Please talk to a trusted adult , your GP or you can ring our Alder Hey CAMHS crisis care line 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0151 293 3577 or freephone 0808 196 3550 Email You can also speak to FRESH CAMHS or Young Person’s Advisory Service YPAS.