What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common enough feeling that everyone experiences at some stage and can be a normal emotional response to stressful situations.

It’s also a natural emotional response that can help us prepare for challenges, like sitting that next exam or worrying about an awkward social occasion.

What makes one person anxious may not create the same response in someone else.

A break-up, concern about exams or work, or a fight with a friend can make you feel anxious, worried or scared.

While anxiety is an everyday feeling it can become a problem when there is no obvious reason for that anxiety or when anxious feelings persist for more than a couple of weeks.

How can anxiety affect you?

Taken on their own, individual symptoms of anxiety are things we all experience from time to time. However, if you’re experiencing more than one of the following over a couple of weeks or longer you may need some extra support. Some of the ways anxiety can affect you physically are:

  • dry mouth and/or difficulty swallowing
  • nightmares
  • difficulty getting to and staying asleep
  • poor concentration
  • muscle tension and headaches
  • rapid heart rate and breathing
  • sweating or trembling
  • diarrhoea
  • flare-up of another health problem or illness (e.g. dermatitis, asthma)
  • sexual problems, such as not having any sexual feelings or being interested in sex

Some common ways anxiety can affect your behaviour and feelings include:

  • irritability or constantly being in a bad mood
  • worry or constantly feeling that something bad is about to happen
  • asking many unnecessary questions and requiring constant reassurance
  • being a perfectionist
  • being pessimistic and easily able to identify what may go wrong in any given situation

There are a number of things you can try to reduce your feelings of anxiety.

Making changes

Identify the times you get anxious and what causes you stress. Can you see changes you could make that might help? Are there people that make the situation better or worse? Are there things that make you feel more relaxed that you can do more of?

Eating and exercise

When people feel anxious they often neglect themselves. Ensuring you’re eating healthy food at regular mealtimes and getting regular exercise will improve your overall health and well-being.


There are loads of ways to relax but some of us need to learn how. Different things work for different people, but it’s really important to find what works for you.

Yoga, pilates and meditation are very popular these days with classes available in nearly every town but they’re not the only way to relax. Going for a walk, run or playing football with a friend or just taking some time out for yourself are all methods of relaxing.


When you’re feeling anxious remind yourself this is an uncomfortable feeling that will pass. Try to distract yourself by thinking about something different.

See if you can concentrate on your breathing, focusing your attention elsewhere. Read more about self-talk


Bottling things up can increase how anxious you feel. It can be hard but if possible, talk to a friend, family member or a GP about what’s making you feel anxious. The simple act of talking to someone outside the situation can help get some perspective.

Give it time

Changes in behaviour don’t happen overnight. But, you can learn to manage feelings of anxiety and not let them take over. Following the tips here will help and don’t forget to reach out to someone for extra support if you need it.

Extra support

If you’re feeling so anxious that it’s impacting on your day-to-day life, you might need some extra support. See face-to-face help to see who you can talk to if you decide you do.

Research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy is very effective in helping people managing anxiety. People like your local doctor or a clinical psychologist can help you either themselves or can refer you to someone who suits.

Search www.counsellingdirectory.ie for a counsellor or psychologist in your area. 

Read about generalised anxiety disorder and the other articles in this section about anxiety and information on the causes and management.

Comments Show all comments

  1. ReachOut.com says:

    Hi Tiegan,

    Thanks for getting in touch again. You wrote into us before, and we’re glad to hear that you’ve spoken with a doctor and a counsellor and with your friends and family since then. You’ve taken some huge steps and should be very proud of yourself.

    We are quite concerned about what you said in your comment to us about self- harming and having thoughts of suicide. As we are concerned, it is our policy to contact the Gardaí with details of your comment. This is to ensure we do all we can to help you get the support you need and deserve.

    The most important thing is that you keep yourself safe Tiegan and you can do this in a few ways. The first thing to do is talk to a family member about how you are feeling at the moment and to let them know what you told us. You say you have spoken with your family before, but it’s important someone close to you knows what’s on your mind at the moment. We know it can be a very difficult to talk with family about this but it is worth it.

    Another way of keeping yourself safe is to arrange another appointment with your doctor and let him or her know how you are feeling. We’re not sure what your doctor suggested the last time you spoke to them but they would want to know if what they suggested isn’t working. They are there to help us and it’s good to be totally honest with them.

    If you ever don’t trust yourself to keep safe or you feel that you might hurt yourself, tell someone nearby how you are feeling straight away, call 999 or go straight to the A&E department of your nearest hospital.

    We know you say that your emotions are getting out of control and nothing is helping, but please don’t give up. The right help and support is out there and it can make a huge difference. Please do speak with a family member and arrange to speak with your local doctor. We will also contact the Gardaí about your comment as we explained above.

    You can get through this Tiegan.
    Take care,


  2. Tiegan says:

    What can I do I've done everything it says in that article. I've been to see a doctor and talk to a counsellor and friends and family. I've been writing my feelings down in a diary. But my emtions are getting really out of control and notting iashelping me. I have also self harmed and have had suicide thoughts.

  3. ReachOut.com says:

    Hi John,

    We can hear that you’ve been trying to keep control of your emotions and it’s really positive that you’ve been trying lots of things yourself. Sometimes though we need support from others to help us cope with what’s going on. We all need a little extra support from time to time and it’s always ok to ask for that support. You don’t need to struggle with this on your own.

    We would encourage you to talk with your local doctor and explain to them how you’ve been feeling. You can discuss medication with them, as there are types of medication which may be helpful. You can also discuss other options like counselling or therapy with them. Talk therapy can be really effective in helping us to deal with our emotions. As well as discussing this with your doctor, you can visit www.counsellingdirectory.ie to find details of counsellors in your local area.

    We hope you have a trusted friend or family member you can talk with about how you are feeling? It’s good to keep sharing our thoughts and feelings and not to let them build up, which can end up causing us more anxiety.

    ‘Overcoming anxiety’ by Helen Kennerley is a recommended book under the Power of Words scheme and should be stocked in all public libraries and in most good bookshops. It might be worth a read.

    We hope this helps a little John and that you do talk with your local doctor and with a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling.

    Take care,

  4. John says:

    What can i do when ive done all pf the above.I train 5 days out a of the week and work on top of that im.starting to lose control of whats going on with my emotions.Could any medication help??If anyone could respond it would be much appreciated

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