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Living with Anxiety

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Anxiety in Children and Young People

The Facts

What is anxiety?

The following summary of the symptoms of anxiety is taken from NHS Choices:

‘Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life … However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.’

Mental symptoms of anxiety can include restlessness, a sense of dread, feeling constantly on edge, difficulty concentrating and irritability. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include dizziness, tiredness, headache, stomach ache, nausea, trembling or shaking, muscle aches, shortness of breath, a noticeably fast or strong heartbeat, dry mouth, excessive sweating and trouble sleeping.

‘Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect you both physically and mentally. How severe the symptoms are varies from person to person. Some people have only one or two symptoms, while others have many more. You should see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or is causing you distress.’

Anxiety statistics

  • Nearly 300,000 children and adolescents in the UK have an anxiety disorder (SafeSpot)
  • Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 2-5% of children under 12, and an estimated 5-19% of young people older than 12 (SafeSpot)
  • As many as one in six young people will experience anxiety at some point in their lives (Young Minds)


Living with anxiety

‘I heard a psychologist on the radio say that having anxiety is like sticking your head above a trench every day. Mine is not that severe; it is more like getting ready for a job interview, a feeling that I have to perform more highly than in reality I actually have to. Some days it is worse than others, but it is not often that I’m away from thoughts that distract me from letting go or having a good time; there is always something at the back of my mind saying you’ve got to sort this or that out.’ (Mental Health Foundation)

‘Peer support is the main thing that helps me cope … Don’t be frightened of it and don’t bottle it up; share it with someone you feel comfortable with.’ (Mental Health Foundation)


More information

NHS Choices – an overview of generalised anxiety disorder, or GAD. An NHS factsheet about anxiety disorders in children can be found here.

SafeSpot – information on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anxiety.

Rethink Mental Illnessinformation about the signs of anxiety, and advice on what to do if you think you may have an anxiety disorder.

Mental Health Foundation – a detailed guide to anxiety disorders and living with anxiety.

Young Minds – a guide to the symptoms of anxiety and finding help if you think you may have anxiety.



Many people living with a mental illness do not receive the help and support they need. To save lives we need to better understand mental illness in young people.

Show your support by signing our petition to increase government funding for mental illness research in children and young lives.

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