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Anxiety – seeking help

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Anxiety occurs when we feel under threat or stress and is a normal part of life – it's actually helped our survival in the past. These days some mild anxiety can help us achieve (a bit of adrenaline may help us perform well in an exam or spur us on in a job interview) but it becomes a problem if it gets in the way of us going about our everyday life and stops us from doing things we’d like to do.

It’s common to feel anxious: you may feel worried, tense or panicked. Feelings can vary in intensity and you might get physical symptoms such as your heart racing, breathing quickly, a heavy feeling in the chest, feeling sick or shaky, sweaty and getting a dry mouth.

You often then start to avoid situations that make you feel like this but if it stands in the way of you leaving the house or stopping you from doing certain things, it has started to become a problem.

Doctor’s advice

What is severe anxiety?

Anxiety disorders can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how often you are experiencing symptoms, how intense they are and how debilitating they become in your day-to-day life. Severe anxiety is anxiety that is present nearly all of the time and so severe it causes you to feel in high distress and struggle to function.

It can often occur alongside panic attacks or depression. Rest assured, severe anxiety can improve with the right help and support, but it’s important to seek help early to break the cycle of symptoms and avoidance behaviors.

When should I seek help?

You should seek medical help if you have severe or prolonged anxiety symptoms despite lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes include making sure you're getting out and about, that you're exercising and eating well, and that you're avoiding excessive alcohol, smoking or drugs such as cannabis. You should also seek help if your symptoms are getting worse or it is affecting your ability to function in your day to day life.

What help is out there?

Your doctor should be your first port of call and can help support you, listen to your concerns and provide advice and access to treatments such as talking therapies or medication. There are also many support groups across the US for anxiety and support helplines which you can find listed below.

Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts

Sometimes anxiety can occur alongside depression, and if this is the case it’s best to seek help early via your doctor. With severe anxiety or depression some people experience suicidal thoughts or feelings, and in this case, you must seek urgent medical help. This can be through an urgent doctor's appointment or by attending the Emergency Department, which is a safe place during a crisis. Here is a list of other organizations that have more information and may be an ear to listen outside of an emergency: Anxiety & Depression Association of America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Mental Health America.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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