Feeling anxious

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. To be ‘anxious’ about something simply means to be worried about it, or afraid, and this is a normal response to some situations.

However, feeling worried and anxious for a long period of time, or experiencing panic attacks, can have an impact on your day-to-day life. 

Anxiety like this creates a feeling of panic or apprehension, which is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heart rate, agitation, nervousness, headaches and panic attacks.

Anxiety can accompany depression or can occur by itself. It can sometimes have a cause such as experiencing a traumatic event, but sometimes there is no obvious cause. It is thought to be quite a common problem, although many people never seek help. 

There are steps you can take to help yourself, including tackling any problems that might be making you feel anxious, talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust and learning relaxation techniques.

You and your doctor

If you think you are experiencing anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP about your feelings. Your GP may recommend talking therapies or self-help techniques. A type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is thought to be the most effective form of talking therapy for anxiety.

If anxiety is linked to depression, then antidepressants may be suggested. In the past, tranquilisers such as Valium were often prescribed for anxiety, but these are very addictive. They are now usually only used for short periods of time, to give some relief from symptoms while other treatments are put into place. They can be very effective when used in this way. 

Feeling anxious can also affect how you feel about HIV treatment and your ability to take your drugs as prescribed, so it’s important that you and your doctor talk about how you feel.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to deal with anxiety on your own. Family and friends can be a great source of support, as can support groups and health professionals. Visit the More information and advice section for contacts.

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this section.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.