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 causes anxiety?

It’s hard to know why some people experience anxiety as a mental health problem and others don’t, but some possible factors include:

If you worry more than others, it could also just feel like part of your personality – or it could be a mixture of these things. Sometimes you might not know why you feel anxious at all, and it might not seem to have any obvious cause.

Past or childhood experiences

If something distressing happened to you in the past, you might feel anxious about facing similar situations again in case they stir up the same feelings of distress.

Feeling anxious could also be something you learned early on in life. For example, if your family or main carers tended to see the world as hostile or dangerous, you may have learned to feel the same way.

It all started back in high school when I was physically and verbally bullied. It was a very traumatic time for me and sometimes still is [traumatic] to think about.

Everyday life and habits

Your lifestyle and the way you spend your time day-to-day, can affect the way you feel. For example, the following experiences can all contribute to anxiety:

I have recently realised that I spend money when anxious, which in turn makes me feel anxious about how much I’m spending


Your diet can affect your mood on a day-to-day basis, and some foods can mimic and trigger symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • drinking caffeine
  • eating lots of sugar
  • a poor diet generally

(See our pages on food and mood for more information.)

Physical and mental health

Your physical health can have an impact on your mental wellbeing. For example, if you have a long-term physical health condition, or experience chronic pain, this might make you more you more vulnerable to experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

Similarly, if you are experiencing other mental health problems, such as depression, this can also make you more vulnerable to experiencing problems with anxiety. (See our pages on mental health problems for more information about different mental health conditions.)

Drugs and medication

If you are taking prescription medication or street drugs, including alcohol, you might find that they can affect your mental health. For example, you might experience anxiety as a side effect of:


There is some evidence to suggest some people might inherit a genetic tendency to be more anxious than others.

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

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today