Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop gradually and, given that we all experience some anxiety at some points in time, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Some common symptoms include:

  • hot and cold flushes
  • racing heart
  • tightening of the chest
  • snowballing worries
  • obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour.

These are just some of a number of symptoms that may be experienced. If you are familiar with any of these symptoms, check the more extensive list of symptoms common to the different types of anxiety disorders below. They are not designed to provide a diagnosis – for that you need to see a doctor – but they can be used as a guide.

Generalised anxiety disorder

For 6 months or more, on more days than not, have you:
  • felt very worried
  • found it hard to stop worrying
  • found that your anxiety made it difficult for you to do everyday activities (e.g. work, study, seeing friends and family)?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also experienced 3 or more of the following:
  • felt restless or on edge
  • felt easily tired
  • had difficulty concentrating
  • felt irritable
  • had muscle pain (e.g. sore jaw or back)
  • had trouble sleeping (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)?

Find out more

Phobias (specific and social)

Have you felt very nervous when faced with a specific object or situation? For example:
  • flying on an aeroplane
  • going near an animal
  • receiving an injection
  • going to a social event?
Have you avoided a situation because of your phobia? For example, have you:
  • changed work patterns
  • not attended social events
  • avoided health check-ups
  • found it hard to go about your daily life (e.g. working, studying or seeing friends and family) because you are trying to avoid such situations?

Find out more

Panic disorder

Within a 10 minute period have you felt 4 or more of the following:
  • sweaty
  • shaky
  • increased heart rate
  • short of breath
  • choked
  • nauseous or pain in the stomach
  • dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • numb or tingly
  • derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings)
  • hot or cold flushes
  • scared of going crazy
  • scared of dying?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also: felt scared, for 1 month or more, of experiencing these feelings again?

Find out more

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Have you:
  • experienced or seen something that involved death, injury, torture or abuse and felt very scared or helpless?
  • had upsetting memories or dreams of the event for at least 1 month?
  • found it hard to go about your daily life (e.g. work, study, getting along with family and friends)?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, have you also experienced at least 3 of the following:
  • avoided activities that remind you of the traumatic event
  • had trouble remembering parts of the event
  • felt less interested in doing things you used to enjoy
  • had trouble feeling intensely positive emotions (e.g. love or excitement)
  • thought less about the future (e.g. about career or family goals)?
and have you experienced at least 2 of the following:
  • had difficulties sleeping (e.g. had bad dreams, or found it hard to fall or stay asleep)
  • felt easily angered or irritated
  • had trouble concentrating
  • felt on guard
  • been easily startled?

Find out more

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Have you:
  • had repetitive thoughts or concerns that are not simply about real life problems (e.g. thoughts that you or people close to you will be harmed)
  • Done the same activity repeatedly and in a very ordered, precise and similar way each time e.g.:
    • constantly washing your hands or clothes, showering or brushing your teeth
    • constantly cleaning, tidying or rearranging things at home, at work or in the car in a very particular way
    • constantly checking that doors and windows are locked and/or appliances are turned off
  • felt relieved in the short term by doing these things, but soon felt the need to repeat them
  • recognised that these feelings, thoughts and behaviours were unreasonable
  • found that these thoughts or behaviours take up more than 1 hour a day and/or interfered with your normal routine (e.g. working, studying or seeing friends and family)?

Find out more

Get support

Find out more about anxiety and depression, available treatments and where to get help in your local area.

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