This information guide is intended for people with mild-to-moderate symptoms.  If you, or someone you know, needs support with mental health problems, in the first instance you should contact your GP. If required, your GP can then refer you to Mental Health Services in your local areas. If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment. It is important to know that support is available.


If you, or someone you know, needs urgent help or is in crisis, call NHS 24 on 111. If you just need to talk with someone, there is help available. The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call them on 116 123 (freephone) or email: jo@samaritans.org. Breathing Space offers a confidential phone line for anyone in Scotland feeling low, anxious or depressed. You can call free on 0800 83 85 87.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, which can be mild or severe. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Many people worry about things such as health, money, or family problems. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships. 

Relaxation is important when you are experiencing problematic anxiety. When we relax, the flow of blood increases around our body giving us more energy. It helps us to have a calmer and clearer mind which aids positive thinking, concentration, memory and decision making. Relaxation slows our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and relieves tension.

Types of Anxiety

Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 

This means having regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life. You can visit NHS Inform to find out more about symptoms of GAD

Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety or social phobia is the extreme fear or anxiety triggered by social situations (such as parties, workplaces, or everyday situations where you have to talk to another person). It is also known as social phobia. Visit NHS Inform to read more social anxiety.

Panic Disorder

In panic disorder you may experience regular or frequent panic attacks without a clear cause or trigger. Experiencing panic disorder can mean that you feel constantly afraid of having another panic attack, to the point that this fear itself can trigger your panic attacks. See NHS Inform for further information on panic attacks


A phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or a particular object (such as spiders). See Mind for more information on phobias.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

PTSD may develop after going through something you found traumatic. PTSD can involve experiencing flashbacks or nightmares which can feel like you're re-living all the fear and anxiety you experienced at the time of the traumatic events. See NHS Inform pages on PTSD and complex PTSD for more information.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD symptoms involve having repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges. See NHS Inform pages on OCD for more information.

Health Anxiety 

With health anxiety you may experience obsessions and compulsions relating to illness, including researching symptoms or checking to see if you have them. It is related to OCD. You can find out more about health anxiety on the Anxiety UK website.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion that causes increased alertness, fear, and physical signs, such as a rapid heart rate. It might affect how you feel physically, mentally and how you behave. It's not always easy to recognise when anxiety is the reason you're feeling or acting differently.

Physical Symptoms

  • Faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling hot
  • Shaking

Mental Symptoms

  • Feeling tense or nervous
  • Being unable to relax
  • Worrying about the past or future
  • Feeling tearful
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fear of the worst happening
  • Intrusive traumatic memories
  • Obsessive thoughts

Behaviour Changes

  • Not being able to enjoy your leisure time
  • Difficulty looking after yourself
  • Struggling to form or maintain relationships
  • Worried about trying new things
  • Avoiding places and situations that create anxiety
  • Compulsive behaviour, such as constantly checking things

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

If you experience sudden, intense anxiety and fear, it might be the symptoms of a panic attack. Other symptoms may include:

  • A racing heartbeat
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling that you're losing control
  • Sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or breathing very quickly
  • A tingling in your fingers or lips
  • Feeling sick (nausea)

A panic attack usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes. They can be very frightening, but they're not dangerous and should not harm you.

Causes of Anxiety

The exact cause for anxiety is not fully understood although it is likely that anxiety has developed due to a combination several factors which may include:

  • Overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour.
  • An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood.
  • The genes you inherit from your parents – you're estimated to be five times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition.
  • Having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying.
  • A life changing event such as moving home, loss of employment or pregnancy.
  • Having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis.
  • Excessive caffeine or having a history of drug or alcohol misuse.

Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety, when the problem goes, so does your anxiety. 

Self-Care for Anxiety

Taking care of yourself is an important step for managing anxiety. We all know that we need to aim for a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain our physical health. It's easy to forget that nutrition and being active are also important for our mental health.  If you are struggling with anxiety, it’s especially important to prioritise time for self-care.

Top Tips

  • Try to understand your anxiety more. You can also learn to challenge the way you speak to yourself. Start with reading the Wellbeing Tip Card on Coping with Anxiety.
  • Engage in soothing activities (e.g., massages, relaxing bath).
  • Get adequate sleep. Visit ‘Sleep Problems’ for additional tips.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See Mind’s food and mood.
  • Practice relaxation and use calming exercises such as Wellbeing Services 'TAKE 5 Relaxation Exercise' or NHS 'Relaxation Technique'.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Talk about your feelings to a friend or family member. You can also contact free helplines such as: Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or Samaritans on 116 123. If you would rather get support via text messaging, you can text Shout for free on 85258. 

Person sitting in a chair looking at a tablet screen which shows contact details


Self-Help Resources

Living with anxiety can be very difficult, but there are steps you can take that might help. These self-help guides, websites and apps may be helpful as you work towards managing anxiety. Like any new skill, it may take a bit of time and practice before you notice any changes in the way you feel.

Self-help Guides

NHS Inform Anxiety Self-Help Guide

NHS Inform Breathing and Relaxation

Wellbeing Glasgow Feelings of Anxiety Self-Help Booklet 

Wellbeing Glasgow Overcoming Panic Self-Help Booklet

Daylight Website Try Daylight Here


NHS Inform Self-Help resources can help you gain a better understanding of anxiety and learn new ways to improve your symptoms.

Wellbeing Glasgow offer information to support you to manage how you feel, change the way that you think about some things and improve your problem-solving skills and confidence

NHS Every Mind Matters offers a free Wellbeing Plan. Just answer 5 questions to get your free plan with tips to help you deal with stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your mood and feel more in control.

Citizens Advice Scotland offer advice about benefits, debt problems, legal issues and local services. The Citizens Advice Bureau website has a directory listing its local offices.

Get Active is a great place to start if you are looking to become more active or increase your physical activity. They have a list of options to help you identify classes and activities offered throughout Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Mind 2 Mind shares other peoples stories with managing anxiety.

Free Courses

NHS GG&C Mindfulness app contains links to free online courses Online Courses (nhsggc.org.uk) and notification of upcoming free summits Upcoming Events (nhsggc.org.uk) . They also provide a range of other resources Resources (nhsggc.org.uk) and practices Guided Practices (nhsggc.org.uk)

Lifelink offer a variety of free online courses such as ‘Re-Assess your Stress’, ‘Art of Relaxation’ and ‘Coping with Change’. Each 2-hour class is delivered experienced facilitators. Participants with a Glasgow postcode can attend as many classes as they like. You can register directly for these classes without the need for any pre-assessment.

Living Life to the Full offer a course to help you learn new skills and tackle problems in your life that may be causing you to feel low worried or hopeless.

There is also an app called Daylight which provides automated, personalised treatment for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  

Get Support Now A life buoy ring at sea

Some people find that talking with friends and family about their feelings can be a real source of support for coping with distress or suicidal thoughts. It might be helpful for them to map their support network and think about people they could call if their feeling suicidal. Other people may prefer to seek more professional support or call a helpline such as Breathing Space, Samaritans or Shout.

  • Breathing Space: Call 0800 83 85 87
  • Samaritans: Call 116 123
  • SHOUT Crisis Text service also available 24/7 Text SHOUT to 85258

For some people they may be finding it difficult to cope and may think of ending their life, if you are concerned about your mental health and wellbeing, you can contact your G.P. within opening hours. If you feel you are in immediate danger, please call 999 for assistance.

Last reviewed: 17/11/2023

Next review date: 15/03/2024

Approved By: NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group

Reviewer name(s): NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group .