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Anxiety

  1. What is anxiety?
  2. Panic Attacks
  3. Tips for managing anxiety and panic

Everyone gets anxious sometimes. Anxiety is when you are scared or worried about things.

Some things that might make you feel anxious:

  • when you are around a lot of people you do not know
  • when you must try out something new like a new school
  • when there’s a big noisy thunderstorm

Most children feel anxious about stressful things, but sometimes you can just feel anxious without really knowing why.

Feeling worried and scared is not nice, especially if you don’t even know why you feel that way.

Anxiety can stop you from doing the things that you usually enjoy, or make it difficult to concentrate at school. It can also make you feel cross, or out of control, or stop you from eating and/or sleeping properly.

Panic attacks are when you suddenly feel scared or uncomfortable.  Some of the things you might be feeling (experiencing) in a scary situation.

  • your heart might beat very fast
  • you might feel choked – like you can’t breathe properly
  • you may tremble and shake
  • your legs may feel weak and shaky
  • you may feel hot and sweaty
  • you might have blurry vision – like you can’t see things properly
  • you might feel that things around you suddenly feel strange

Some of the things you might be thinking about during a panic attack:

  • I am going to faint
  • I am short of breath
  • I am going to throw up (vomit)
  • I am going to choke
  • I am about to embarrass myself in front of everybody
  • I need to get away / escape

Understanding panic attacks

Our brains and bodies are very smart and can do some very clever things to protect us.

If you are feeling scared – like you are in some kind of danger (that someone or something is going to hurt you), your brain does an amazing thing – it sends a signal to your body to react to help you get away from the danger. This is called the fight, freeze or flight reaction.

So, imagine a big scary dog runs up to you. You might pick up a stick and get ready to defend yourself from the dog, you might just freeze and stay completely still, or else you might run away as fast as you can. Your brain tells your body which action is the most likely to keep you safe without you even thinking about it.

When you have a panic attack the brain sends a false alarm to the body and the fight, freeze or flight reaction happens when there is no real danger. A panic attack can be very scary, so it’s important to remember that a panic attack is a false alarm that your body is having, and that it will end after a while.

Why do panic attacks and anxiety happen?

Panic and anxiety can be brought on by physical danger such as being afraid someone will hurt you. But it can also be caused by a single thought or fear that something bad is about to happen. Sometimes being anxious and stressed about something, such as exam results, can build up to a point where you begin to panic.

Thinking about events from the past can sometimes make you feel the stress all over again. And that can trigger feelings of panic. It could be a memory of bullying, or abuse. But sometimes the reminder can be something small that doesn’t seem important.

This means that you can think yourself into having a panic attack. But it also means that you can think yourself out of one. With time, you can learn to control panic when you feel it building up.

If you feel that your worries are interfering with your life, remember, there are people and places that can help. Please phone Childline 08000 55 555 or speak to somebody you trust. You can get help to feel better again.

Some things to do when you experience anxiety or panic

  • identify that you are feeling anxious
  • remind yourself that the feelings of anxiety and panic will end – there is nothing wrong with you
  • ask for help – find someone who you trust who can help you to get through your panic
  • try to find something to do that will distract you – like finding something to look at or to read
  • go to another room, or go outside – find a calm space
  • deep, slow breathing
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