What is anxiety? “Anxiety is a common problem which can affect our ability to function normally. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience anxiety.” Everyone experiences worry from time to time, it’s a normal part of life and often a reasonable reaction to difficult situations we encounter. Sometimes, however, these feelings can stay longer than necessary, be much more intense than usual, or difficult to control. Anxiety is a symptom of several mental health conditions (such as generalised anxiety disorder, or social anxiety disorder), many of which affect LGBTQ+ people more than their cis and straight counterparts. Signs and symptoms Like all mental health conditions, the physical and emotional symptoms vary between people, but some of the most common symptoms of anxiety are the following: Physical Racing heart (palpitations) Sweating Fidgeting and restlessness Hyperventilation Tense muscles Dizziness Feeling sick Dry mouth Difficulty breathing Tingling in hands and feet Emotional Sense of impending doom or danger Feeling of panic Fearing that you may lose control or go mad Worry that you’re having a heart attack or other fatal condition Feeling detached from your body Feeling disconnected from the world around you, like it isn’t real Wanting to escape your current situation or surroundings Worry that the worst may happen in any situation Constantly thinking about past experiences over and over Worrying about the anxiety itself, and when it may come back How common is anxiety? If you experience anxiety, you’re definitely not alone. More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of depression, which often comes hand in hand with anxiety. What causes anxiety? When anxiety starts to become a problem, this is often due to another condition which is fuelling the anxiety, such as a phobia, past trauma (PTSD), bereavement, or stress. LGBTQ+ people are more likely than the general population to encounter difficult situations that may bring on anxiety issues. Bullying is still a big problem in schools, coming out can be extremely stressful, and other inequalities like harassment and discrimination could explain why we’re more prone to anxiety. But the honest answer is that it's complicated, and there is no one simple cause of anxiety and anxiety disorders. What treatments are available? Various treatments can help relieve anxiety. The NHS offers cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) a short course of talk therapy which aims to challenge the thoughts that are upsetting you. Depending on how severe the anxiety, and its source, then medication, such as beta blockers, or antidepressants could also be recommended by your GP. What self-care can help? There are steps you can take yourself to reduce the intensity of your anxiety: Take regular exercise Practice sleep hygiene Talk to peers Practice mindfulness Read a CBT book Avoid caffeine Everyone is different. You might have to experiment a little and see what works for you. If a relaxing bath with candles doesn't do the trick, don't sweat it - there are lots of other things you can try. What Next? Support Anxiety UK is a charity dedicated to helping those who experience anxiety. It offers text and telephone chat, as well as advice on therapy and crisis support. If you’d prefer to speak to someone who is LGBTQ+, then Switchboard’s volunteers are also there to listen on its dedicated helpline. Extra Reading Mind, the mental health charity, has an excellent online information about anxiety and its effects.