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It's normal to feel more alert, to notice the heart beating faster or breathing getting quicker, when faced with something new or challenging. A little bit of anxiety is fine – even helpful. However, when the feeling is overwhelming or causes avoidance, it becomes problematic. Anxiety is a common mental health problem in the UK.
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Types and symptoms of anxiety

How do I know if I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?

Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Hot temper.
  • Trouble coping with stress.

What ADHD is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).

At what age do ADHD symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.

How long does ADHD last?

ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.

How many people have ADHD?

In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.

What causes ADHD?

We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Problems during development.

What are the risk factors for ADHD?

The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:

  • Family members suffer from ADHD.
  • During pregnancy the mother smokes, drinks, or uses drugs.
  • A child is premature.

What are the impacts of delayed diagnosis of ADHD?

ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance.
  • Unemployment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Trouble with the police.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Poor self-esteem.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis normally includes:

  • Asking questions about symptoms and family medical history.
  • ADHD tests to measure symptoms.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:

  • Medication.
  • Therapy.

ADHD medication

Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.

Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.

Therapy for ADHD

Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.

Help and information about ADHD

ADHD (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

ADHD Foundation

For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.

Young Minds

Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in


Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis for people with anxiety symptoms that affect their daily life, such as work or social life.

People with anxiety might experience physical symptoms, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or stomach ache

They might also feel ‘on edge’, experience poor concentration or irritability, and carry a sense of dread with no real reason. Sometimes people avoid work or stop going out to cope with these symptoms.

Panic attacks are a common symptom of GAD. They are very difficult and involve overwhelming ‘attacks’ of physical and psychological symptoms, such as breathlessness and brain fog. After having a panic attack, a person might find that they are worried about having another, which can affect their confidence to go out, work or feel present in social situations.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common anxiety disorder. People with OCD experience a cycle of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that is stressful and overwhelming.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety diagnosis for people experiencing regular panic attacks or anxiety attacks, particularly when there appears to be no reason to panic.

Panic attacks can create a racing heartbeat, make a person feel faint, dizzy or sick, and can cause shortness of breath or chest pain. They may feel like a heart attack, although panic attacks can’t cause heart attacks and they are not fatal.


These are irrational and subjective fears that stop you living freely. When a person can’t go about their daily life because of these fears, or fear of panic attacks, they should seek help to manage their anxiety.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, cPTSD)

People can recover from trauma but some experiences, for reasons we don’t understand, are harder to recover from than others. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that follows trauma.

Complex PTSD is another anxiety disorder that is similar to PTSD. The difference is that alongside PTSD symptoms, people might also experience hopelessness and poor self-esteem, struggle to regulate their emotions, feel dissociated, or face suicidal thoughts. People might have cPTSD if they have been subjected to prolonged or multiple traumas.

Social anxiety disorder

It’s common to feel nervous before meeting new people or people you don’t know well. But when anxiety or fear of anxiety stops people seeing friends or going to important events, they may find that they need more support in order to prevent isolation.

Do I have clinical anxiety?

If worries or physical symptoms of anxiety are consistent for six months, and affect your ability to work or go about your normal life, your GP may well give you a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.

Do I have an anxiety disorder, or am I just worried?

Anxiety is a normal emotion, and so are feelings of being nervous, anxious, panicky or frightened, particularly when we face challenges. But overwhelming experiences of anxiety such as panic attacks and compulsions make it hard to live normally and can prevent people experiencing or enjoying life.

For example, anxiety is common when we challenge ourselves at work – for example, by presenting work to groups or attending an interview for a job we would like to be considered for. People with anxiety also challenge themselves at work, and might benefit from treatment for anxiety if they are not already getting it.

How long does clinical anxiety last?

Doctors encourage anyone with symptoms that last six months or more to seek treatment, but some people live with symptoms for longer than this. Clinical anxiety can be a lifelong diagnosis, but treatment for anxiety can have immediate relief from symptoms. Every case is different.

How many people suffer from anxiety disorders?

In the UK, around 5% of the population has generalised anxiety. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed as men.

The Office for National Statistics reported that prevalence of ‘high anxiety’ rose during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What treatments are there for anxiety?

Therapy for anxiety

Talking about anxiety can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy helps explore experiences, feelings and memories that relate to anxious periods of life.

In particular, behavioural therapy (such as exposure therapy and CBT) can offer people new ways to cope with anxiety and the things that might seem to ‘provoke’ it.

Anxiety medication

Anxiety and anxiety symptoms respond well to medication where a doctor feels a person would benefit from it.

History of anxiety in the UK

Beta blockers invented

In 1964, James Black synthesised the first beta blockers, which were first used to manage angina. But it wasn’t until 1976 when a paper came out in The Lancet that they were first publicly acknowledged as a treatment for anxiety symptoms.

Books, podcasts and events

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop (2015)

David Adam developed an anxiety disorder, OCD, at university seemingly out of nowhere.
Buy from Blackwells

Mrs Hinch (2019)

Sophie Hinch talks to Emma Gannon about her experience of living with anxiety, and her success as an influencer.
Listen online

Help and information about anxiety

Depression (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

Anxiety UK

Anxiety UK provides advice and advocacy for people with an anxiety disorder diagnosis.


For people in distress or despair, especially for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, Samaritans is open 24 hours a day by phone (116 123) and email (