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Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious at times, but managing diabetes may increase anxiety. Find out about the ways to deal with anxiety that work, and often quickly.

We all get scared about something coming up, like a job interview, a test or getting on a plane. Anxiety is also closely linked to our physical health – so coping with a condition like diabetes can increase anxiety.

Knowing why you’re anxious is the first step to stopping it before it stops you from getting on with things.

Anxiety is a normal physical response

Anxiety describes our emotional (psychological) and physical feelings when we are scared or worried. It happens to everyone because it’s how our body copes:  it’s called our “fight or flight” response.

This response is useful when we have to be alert and get through something, like a job interview. However, the scary feelings can stay longer, leaving us anxious and feeling uncomfortable.

Physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks

  • feeling sick or dizzy
  • headaches,
  • pins and needles
  • sweating
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pains
  • feeling like you’re outside your body

Panic attacks are often over quickly but some people have lots and they may last much longer.

If any of these symptoms persist, please see your GP so they can check that there isn't a physical cause for them.

Psychological symptoms of anxiety

  • feeling numb
  • feeling tense or nervous, as if something awful will happen
  • feeling restless or unable to focus because you’re thinking about too many things or one thing all the time

Everything might be going too fast or slow, or you may feel as if people are staring at you because you look scared.

When anxiety becomes a problem

If you feel anxious a lot or for a long time, you may:

  • have problems sleeping
  • get ill more often as your immune system is lower
  • smoke, drink or take drugs to cope
  • lose your sex drive

If your feelings of anxiety become very strong or last for a long time, tell your healthcare team because anxiety is easily treated.

Managing your anxiety

Facing up to how you feel is the first step to breaking the cycle of anxiety and you could also try:

  • breathing exercises to calm you (see the NHS’s breathing exercises for stress)
  • shifting your focus onto things that make you feel better
  • listening to music or dancing
  • moving more through exercise like running, cycling or swimming
  • therapies like yoga, meditation, aromatherapy or massage
  • talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious
  • joining a support group to share your worries

What treatment can I get for anxiety?

Common treatments for anxiety and panic attacks or disorders are talking therapies and/or medication.

You may get counselling from the NHS and you may be able to refer yourself on the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme website

Always ask your healthcare team about different treatment options.