Anxiety is a word used to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the fight or flight response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.
We all know what it’s like to feel anxious from time to time. It’s common to feel tense, nervous and perhaps fearful at the thought of a stressful event or decision you’re facing – especially if it could have a big impact on your life. For a short time you might even find it hard to sleep, eat or concentrate. Then usually, after a short while or when the situation has passed, the feelings of worry stop.
Because anxiety is a normal human experience, it's sometimes hard to know when it's becoming a problem for you – but if your feelings of anxiety are very strong, or last for a long time, it can be overwhelming.
- you might find that you’re worrying all the time, perhaps about things that are a regular part of everyday life, or about things that aren’t likely to happen
- you might regularly experience unpleasant physical and psychological effects of anxiety, and maybe panic attacks
- depending on the kind of problems you experience, you might be given a diagnosis of a specific anxiety disorder
We often use the expression ‘I feel depressed’ when we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually, these feelings pass in due course. But, if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're depressed in the medical sense of the term.
In its mildest form, depression can mean feeling low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression, or clinical depression, can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal or give up the will to live.