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West London NHS Trust > Patients and carers > Mental and physical health conditions > Anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder

What is an anxiety disorder?


Anxiety is a normal response to a difficult situation. However, for some people, the anxiety they feel is so extreme that it is a disorder that affects everyday life.
There are different types of anxiety disorders:

  • Phobia is a fear that is out of proportion to any real danger. Common phobias are fears of heights, spiders, mice, blood and injections.
  • Social phobia is being severely anxious about meeting people.
  • Agoraphobia is a fear of crowds or public places.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is having recurring obsessions (thoughts or images of things that make a person feel disgusted such as germs, dirt or violence) and compulsions (thoughts or actions usually as a response to an obsession such as repeated hand-washing).
  • Panic disorders cause severe anxiety for no apparent reasons.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by seeing or experiencing a traumatic event, such as a major accident or military combat.
  • Generalised anxiety disorder is feeling worried most of the time about things that might go wrong.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives. However, for around one in 20 people, anxiety reaches a very distressing level and affects everyday life.
Women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders usually develop in late teens or early adulthood.
Anxiety is only considered a mental health illness when it’s long lasting, severe and interferes with the ability to carry on with everyday activities.

Why is it important to get treatment?

An anxiety disorder can lead to avoidance of particular situation or places. Without treatment, an anxiety disorder can get worse and start to have a major impact on a person’s ability to get on with everyday life.
Most people can overcome an anxiety disorder with the help of talking treatments such as counselling. At WLMHT, talking treatments focus on the whole person, not just the symptoms, helping them to see how they can have more active control over their anxiety and how it affects their life.

Living with anxiety


Often people suffer for years without telling anyone. With treatment, they are usually able to change the way they think and reduce the intensity of their symptoms.
Treatment can show a person how to manage and reduce their anxiety in a way that works specifically for them. They are given hope that they can lead a fulfilling life, take part in activities and develop relationships regardless of whether their symptoms continue.

Care at WLMHT

Therapists at WLMHT are experienced in treating anxiety disorders. A therapist works with a person in an equal partnership that fully involves them in all aspects of their care. Together, they determine the cause and type of anxiety disorder, and put together a course of effective treatment.
Care at WLMHT focuses on having recovery in sight at all times, and so takes into account each person’s diverse needs and personal treatment preferences so that well-being, once it’s achieved, can be maintained.