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. Sue says:

    yes it is good they can talk. Oh I think I got you wrong there as im a busy woman and all I do is be there to listen and be there for a friend if I feel it is ok to do that and they need me. As many people know yes its true you cant change a person and it takes only them to change and do something about it themselves. I am doing my own things in life working, travelling, coursework, my hobbies, socialising with my other friends and my family, shopping and my life is quite good etc and the situation with my two friends is not really troubling me but just thought was quite interesting last night when I came across this article while I was browsing the net and looking up something else. Thanks for your answer much appreciated

  2. Fenella (Admin) says:

    Hi Sue,

    It sounds like there’s a lot on your mind right now and that you feel quite concerned for your two friends.

    It’s really positive that you are looking for ways to support them. As a friend, we can play an important role in helping our friends deal with the tough times they are going through. We have to remember our limits though. You are not a trained counsellor or health professional so it’s not your job to ‘fix’ any problems your friends may face.

    As a friend the best thing we can do is be there to listen without judging and let your friends talk openly to you. It sounds like you already do all this, so well done Sue.

    Another step we can take if we’re concerned about a friend is to help them access support from trained and skilled people such as counsellors and health professionals.

    You mention that your female friend is already seeking help from a counsellor and that’s a good sign. Encourage her to stick with the counsellor and reassure her that it will help if she gives it time. Counselling can be quite tough at the start as we begin to deal with thoughts and feelings that we usually try to ignore. She could also talk to her local doctor/GP if she wanted some extra support. GPs are there to help us with mental health problems like anxiety as well as physical health problems and often know of local supports that could also help.

    You’ve shared quite a lot about your male friend and I think it’s great that he opens up to you so much. It’s a sign of how much he trusts you and values your friendship.

    If you wanted, and if you thought it would be something he might be open to, you could suggest that he speak with a counsellor to try and sort through some of the things on his mind. Counsellors have tools they use to help us work through issues and problems we face.

    One thing you could do Sue is to talk with a counsellor yourself and explain what's going on for you and your friends. You might get some insight and suggestions as to how best to deal with what’s going on. This is a lot for you to have on your mind and it might help to talk things through to help you look after yourself as well as getting information and finding ways of better supporting your friends. You can ask your local doctor/GP to recommend a counsellor or you can check out counsellingdirectory.ie.

    Try not to let what’s going on in your friends’ lives overwhelm you. Remember to take time out to relax and do the things that you enjoy doing. I know it’s hard when you’re concerned and worried about your friends, but for your own wellbeing, do look after yourself and make sure you have someone you can talk to as well. Your role as a friend is not to ‘fix’ any problems, but to be there to listen and support.

    I hope this helps Sue

    Take care,

  3. Sue says:

    Also she feels if someone is joking with her at times she might take this serious and get annoyed. she has a lot of energy like a child of 5 getting up at 7 in the morning and still has energy at night. she works two jobs. she also gets paranoid where people are at times. but anyway that's her experience. I also have another friend that has similar symptoms to this. He is 28 lovely guy but he also has trouble worrying, getting paranoid, also overthinks things, reads into things too much such as things from the past, present and looking into the future. he gets back pain an odd time, dry mouth, can feel panic or shaky, has trouble sleeping. sometimes I would get a text from him saying that he hasn't heard from me in a few days and asking whats wrong is something wrong and am I ok. he does this to other people too. its mainly happened with women in his past. he worries he will never find that certain someone, feels like its getting to late and he needs to panic to find someone soon or just give up looking. he is open to her mother about his thoughts. he tends to go on and on about a person if he has been in a situation with someone that's been awkward such as a break up or argument. he might go into a rant and say sorry a few times after. sometimes he could be grumpy and say things to someone and may regret it a few days or months after. he can get easily attached to some people. he has admitted if he became really close with a girl and she had her own place he would or could end up hanging about that house a lot. he does gaming, loves computers, builds and repairs them, loves the gym. he says he cant get no work cause of having epilepsy that type with the eyes that go into staring. I am not sure how bad he thinks it is or maybe it is not as bad as he makes out. he has never taken a fit from the amount of time that I have known him which is 2 years now. he rings you if he thinks something is up why is he not getting a reply message back or hasn't heard from someone. he has on and off confusion thoughts like giving something a chance then having doubts or worrying what if this or that goes wrong or will this or that happen or that hes changed his mind over something silly that means nothing. apart from that he is very sociable with people. has a sense of humour too, he is smart even though he may have problems reading. he may have trouble getting out and about meeting new people. he used to get out and about a lot but most of his friends apart from a few are moved away,engaged, in relationships, or married and he thought that there was no point going out anywhere anymore. he now thinks he should and should explore places more, I really hope he finds work or a course hopefully he will look for something. I have wondered how I could support him with this. He has not totally opened up fully about what goes on with him but tells me his thoughts and I know he has a councillor last year but I don't know if he still sees him. he takes tablets but forgets an odd time to take them. when there is a problem or he is very uneasy im one of the people along with his mother and few other friends that he talks to. he also doesn't take too much notice what people may judge about but there may be some things he does not like said about him and this can get stuck into his head and annoy him. he also cleaned out his wardrobe telling me he went away and bought a load of new clothes and kept a few clothes he had. he reckoned he needed to change style a bit. Even wee pic quotes of facebook put up by any person and may seem to sound sad would make him feel concerned and think its depressing and he makes a big deal of things people put up even if he does not know them. not by posting anything about it but he just says that it depresses him when he sees that. I hope he can be happy. he bes happy most days then days he gets things bad

  4. Sue says:

    Hi I have a friend who is open about having anxiety. she sometimes panics or worries. she would read into things silly things most of the time. say inappropriate things in public at times. she has problems with relationships such as being too clingy, paranoid shes being cheated on, could argue and turn angry if she doesn't get what she wants or tells someone to do, a guy will not be able to talk to another girl or she would get very mad about this. she would txt too much at people and if someone is busy or hasn't answered back she keeps writin back and may think something is wrong and she worries and panics. she would start ringing peoples phones a few times, could land to someones house. one nite she fell out with a guy on a nite out and she ended up getting sick in the bathroom, feeling shaky, nervous, paranoid, like she couldn't breathe, saying she wanted to die, jumping to conclusions about this guy and asking me and my other friend a hundred questions about him making it worse for herself. shes not meant to drink but she still sometimes does on a nite out and does not end up well behaved such as dancing with anyone, pestering people, doing inappropriate things or saying things most people would not say in public, if someone shes close to dances with someone she gets very jealous and jumps to conclusions and panics. shes a lovely girl but shes meant to see a new councillor again. her parents don't really do nothing about it and many people complain about her or talk about her

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