Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of worry, fear and panic. As well as these emotional feelings, people with anxiety might also experience physical (body) sensations such as a racing heart, breathing fast, sweaty hands, dry mouth and feeling shaky. Many people also have “what if” or negative thoughts when they are anxious.
Anxiety is a normal human response to feeling threatened or in danger, even if that threat or danger is a thought, image or memory. Anxiety can become a real problem if the thoughts, emotions (feelings) and physical sensations are very strong, happen even when there is no real danger or if it lasts for a long time.
Lots of people experience worry and anxiety although for some people it can impact on everyday life and get in the way of school/college, socialising and even home life. The types of anxiety that are most common but cause a lot of distress include:
• Worries about what other people think of you or worries about being judged negatively and not feeling good enough
• Worries about bad things happening to you or the people you love and care about
• Uncontrollable constant worry about lots of things (like school, the future, health, world events)
• Worries about your safety and health (including worries about germs and contamination)
• Phobias (big fears) about specific things
• Worries that you are responsible for bad things happening
• Feeling the need to complete certain routines, rituals or behaviour to stop bad things from happening (commonly known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
We have developed workbooks which young people and families can use and can be downloaded from this page. This book provides a lot of useful information about why we experience anxiety as well as several different types of techniques to help manage and lessen anxiety. This self-help programme should be completed prior to a referral to specialist CAMHS unless there is an immediate need for the specialist mental health service to assess and intervene due to the level of risk identified.
Worries and anxiety are common; everyone worries so it’s important to remember you are not alone. Some worries may seem very real and very scary. Tell someone how you are feeling no matter what your worries are, even if you are worried about doing so. There will be someone who will listen and try to support you.
Although anxiety feels horrible, remember these feelings will pass and the physical sensations cannot harm you. Remind yourself that you have been anxious before, that those feelings passed, that you coped and were ok. If you need to, use activities, such as watching TV, spending time with friends, reading, making things and listening to music, to help manage until you feel a bit better.
You cannot avoid all the things that make you feel anxious so face your FEARs with confidence following these four steps;
• Focus – rather than worry about the past, future or the unknown, focus on the present moment, the here and now
• Expose – the more you face your fears the easier it will become to manage
• Approach – the fear of experiencing anxiety is often worse than the situation you are avoiding. Face your fear and see for yourself that the situation probably isn’t as bad as you are predicting
• Rehearse – practice anxiety management techniques.
You can find lots of these on the Youth Anxiety website.
These are experiences that most young people will have from time to time.
Type and nature of worry
It is common for children and young people to experience worry as they develop through childhood and adolescence. The typical worries children and young people experience tend to be situation specific, short term and can be managed with the love and support of parents/ carers. Examples might be:
What you might see or a young person might report
Things to try, support and Next Steps
An A-Z of coping strategies: https://youtu.be/5EXpkVw3fh0
How and when to use a coping box: https://youtu.be/OyfgodSSdV4
Needs help; These are challenges that some young people experience and may need some support with.
The degree to which a young person worries appears out of context or disproportionate to the reason why they might be worrying. Episodes of anxiety might be more frequent or prolonged and cause the young person distress or might have some mild impact on their ability to cope with everyday life such as going to or coping at school, seeing friends or taking part in leisure activities. Examples might be:
Things to try, support and Next Steps
Needs Specialist Treatment or a Crisis Response; These are difficulties that cause a significant impact and a young person may need specialist support.
These anxieties are severe and enduring. These cause significant distress to a young person and significantly disrupt daily coping such as school/ college, socialising and even self-care activities (e.g., sleep, bathing, eating). Despite trying advice in the green and amber stages, the young person still experiences anxiety symptoms.
As well as the features in Green and Amber, the following might also be present:
As well as the steps in Green and Amber the following might be helpful:
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Video description: How to support a young person who may have anxiety
Video description: Struggling with anxiety? Try on a new perspective
Video description: Guided Mindfulness: Passing Clouds - Dr Natalie Roberts
Video description: Guided Mindfulness: Leaves on a Stream