When we face potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival. Incoming danger sets off alarms in the body and allows evasive action. These alarms become noticeable in the form of a raised heartbeat, sweating, and increased sensitivity to surroundings.

Anxiety disorders are different. They can cause significant levels of distress that interfere with the ability to lead a normal life. Worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. With treatment and support, however, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.

Anxiety disorders are a common condition, estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population. They can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. These vary, but can include feeling restless or worried, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, dizziness, panic attacks, chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood, although it’s likely they stem from a combination of factors, including changes in the brain, environmental stress and genetics. Having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying is often contributing factor. The same applies for a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Many people, however, develop anxiety disorders for no apparent reason.

Anxiety disorders have a significant and negative effect on daily life, but several different, new and proven treatments and practices are available that can ease and manage symptoms, as well as resolve historic issues that underly them. There are also ways to reduce the risk of anxiety disorders.

Anxious feelings are a natural factor of daily life, and experiencing them does not always indicate the presence of a mental health disorder. Basic steps can help to regulate elevated levels of anxiety including, reduced intake of caffeine, a healthy diet, a regular sleep pattern, meditation practice and avoidance of alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.