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06 November 2017

 Skip to: Anxiety, OCD, Phobias


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.

However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives. People with anxiety challenges tend to feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.

Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including:

Although feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.

Who can help?

If you feel that you or someone you know could be suffering with anxiety then you can always go to your GP for help; your GP will be able to refer you over to someone who can help you get treatment. You can also self-refer yourself to services that help with Mental Health Challenges to get treatment.


What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

It affects men, women and children and can develop at any age. Some people develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.

OCD can be distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control.

If you have OCD, you'll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

  • An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
  • A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

For example, someone with an obsessive fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.

People with OCD can be reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed. But there's nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It's a health condition like any other – it doesn't mean you're "mad" and it's not your fault you have it.

Who can help?

If you know someone or yourself is struggling with OCD you can visit your GP who will be able to refer you to someone to get help. You can also refer yourself directly to services that help with OCD and other Mental Health Challenges.

The following sites may be useful sources of support:

OCD Action, OCD-UK and TOP UK can also let you know about any local support groups in your area.

What are Phobias?

A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.

If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause a lot of distress.

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. You may not experience any symptoms until you come into contact with the source of your phobia.

However, in some cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make a person feel anxious or panicky. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.

If you don't come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life.

There are a wide variety of objects or situations that someone could develop a phobia about. However, phobias can be divided into two main categories:

  • Specific or simple phobias
  • Complex phobias

Specific or simple phobias

Specific or simple phobias centre around a particular object, animal, situation or activity. They often develop during childhood or adolescence and may become less severe as you get older.

Common examples of simple phobias include:

  • Animal phobias – such as dogs, spiders, snakes or rodents
  • Environmental phobias – such as heights, deep water and germs
  • Situational phobias – such as visiting the dentist or flying
  • Bodily phobias – such as blood, vomit or having injections
  • Sexual phobias – such as performance anxiety or the fear of getting a sexually transmitted infection 

Complex phobias

Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias. They tend to develop during adulthood and are often associated with a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about a particular situation or circumstance.

The two most common complex phobias are:

  • Agoraphobia
  • Social phobia 

Agoraphobia is often thought of as a fear of open spaces, but it's much more complex than this. Someone with agoraphobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be difficult if they have a panic attack.

Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, centres around feeling anxious in social situations. If you have a social phobia, you might be afraid of speaking in front of people for fear of embarrassing yourself and being humiliated in public. In severe cases, this can become debilitating and may prevent you from carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends.

How common are phobias?

Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder.

They can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex and social background. Some of the most common phobias include:

  • Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • Claustrophobia  – fear of confined spaces
  • Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places
  • Social phobia  – fear of social situations

Who can help?

If you have a phobia, you should seek help from your GP. They may refer you to a specialist with expertise in behavioural therapy, such as a psychologist. Or you can refer yourself to a service that helps with Mental Health Challenges.


Mental health challenges are common but help is available and with the right support many people recover completely. Check out our Who Can Help Page for lots of services who are local and national!