Anxiety and panic attacks

Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Managing anxiety with creativity

Damien blogs for us about using creativity to manage his anxiety.

Posted on 04/03/2014

Sleeping with anxiety

Annie blogs about not being able to switch off and sleep, and how she copes with anxiety.

Posted on 18/04/2013

Talking about anxiety at university

Emmie blogs about her experiences of managing relationships and anxiety whilst at university.

Emma Togneri
Posted on 24/09/2014

What are anxiety disorders?

The most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:

You might not have, or want, a diagnosis of a particular disorder – but it might still be useful to learn about these different diagnoses to help you think about your own experiences of anxiety, and consider options for support.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

If you have felt anxious for a long time and often feel fearful, but are not anxious about anything specific that is happening in your life, you might be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Because there are lots of possible symptoms and effects of anxiety this can be quite a broad diagnosis, meaning that the problems you experience with GAD might be quite different from the problems another person experiences, even though you have the same diagnosis. 

If you don’t know what is wrong with you, how do you know how to fix it? For me, actually being diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder came as a relief! It meant that I wasn’t imagining the awful symptoms I’d been experiencing.

Panic disorder

If you experience panic attacks that seem completely unpredictable and you can’t identify what triggers them, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder.

Experiencing panic disorder can mean that you feel constantly afraid of having another panic attack, to the point that this fear itself can trigger your panic attacks.

Never knowing when I was going to get a panic attack was the worst feeling in the world.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a diagnosis you might be given if your anxiety leads you to experience:

  • obsessions – unwelcome thoughts, images, urges or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind
  • compulsions – repetitive activities that you feel you have to do

(See our pages on OCD for more information on what OCD is, and what treatments and support are available.)


A phobia is an intense fear of something, even when that thing is very unlikely to be dangerous to you. If you have a phobia, your anxiety may be triggered by very specific situations or objects.

(See our pages on phobias for more information on what phobias are, and what treatments and support are available.)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If you develop strong feelings of anxiety after experiencing or witnessing something you found very traumatic, you might be given a diagnosis of PTSD. PTSD can cause flashbacks or nightmares which can feel like you’re re-living all the fear and anxiety you experienced during the actual event.

(See our pages on PTSD for more information on what PTSD is, and what treatments and support are available.)

This information was published in February 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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