Seeking support for anxiety

When you have anxiety, it is important to get support before it becomes a debilitating problem.

There are many sources of support for anxiety, such as the NHS, mental health charities, online support and telephone helplines. In addition, social support is important for managing anxiety.

In our study, respondents had indicated a wide range of support sources including social support from friends (28%) and siblings (20%) and more clinical support, such as the GP (28%) and NHS mental health services (20%).

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There is a body of evidence around men’s reluctance to seek help for mental health problems and many studies support the generally-held assumption that men are less likely than women to get assistance from professionals for mental health problems.xxiv This was also reflected in our study where we noted that men were less likely to go to their GP (26% vs 29%) or a therapist (18% vs 22%). We also found men were less likely to have sought support from friends (23% vs 31%). This was even more prominent amongst men from Black and minority ethnic communities where only 14% had sought help from their GP for their anxiety (compared to 23% of women).

Seeking help is an important step towards accessing support and improving quality of life.

Evidence suggests that young people are less likely to seek help from others, particularly professional help from GPs. This was borne out by the young people (18 to 24 years old) in our research who were much more likely to have sought support from their friends (31%) than their GP (27%).

When asked if this support had helped, overwhelmingly respondents indicated that the support they accessed had helped them to some extent. Interestingly, support from friends, parents and siblings polled the highest, indicating the importance of social and family support in helping people with their anxiety.

Most people had positive experiences of seeking support. Only a few respondents were unhappy with the support they had received. As the vast majority of those who sought support found it helped them, there is a need to encourage those who feel overwhelmed by anxiety to seek support that could help them.

Encouragingly, when asked where they would consider going for help or support, health professionals were top of the list.

Jenna's experience of anxiety

For Jenna, feelings of anxiety were made worse after she was affected by COVID-19.

Since falling ill with COVID-19 in 2019, she’s had continuing symptoms along with fibromyalgia. This effect on her health has contributed to feelings of anxiety, as have her experiences of understanding or recognition of long COVID from other people, clinicians and the government.

“Day to day, not knowing how you’ll feel when you wake up is exhausting and anxiety-inducing. Horse riding, my husband and the long COVID support group have helped me greatly. I’m pleased to be back on the horse and slow[ly] building up my fitness.”

Jenna has benefitted from participating in MHF Wales’s long COVID peer support group and spoke of the positive effect meeting people with shared experience has had.

Read more of Jenna's story

Broader actions to help with anxiety in the population

This briefing has examined the causes of anxiety and illustrated how anxiety can affect many aspects of people’s lives, including their education and employment, their social life and pressures, and their personal relationships. It can also affect their overall well-being.

In our research, we asked all respondents what top three actions would help with their anxiety. Financial security topped the list at 40% (in particular amongst those over 25 years old) peaking at those aged 50 to 64 years old, where nearly two-thirds (63%) think financial security would help.

Less pressure at work was more likely to be cited as an action that would help anxiety by men than women (24% vs 18%) and those aged 25 to 34 years old (30%).

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A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.

You should seek help if you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, fear or panic; or if things you’re trying yourself are not helping.

You can find a range of sources of help on our 'get help' page

See a GP if:

  • You’re struggling to cope with anxiety, fear or panic.
  • Things you’re trying yourself are not helping.
  • You would prefer to get a referral from a GP.

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • You need help urgently, but it’s not an emergency.
  • You need to see someone. 111 can tell you the right place to get help. Go to NHS 111 online or call 111.

Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • You or someone you know needs immediate help.
  • You have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose.

Contact Anxiety UK for support

Anxiety UK was established in 1970 and is run by and for those with anxiety, offering an extensive range of support services designed to help support those affected by anxiety disorders, anxiety and anxiety-based depression.

Services available include:

Helpline services - 03444 775 774, open from 9:30am to 17:30pm Mon to Friday, along with a text service 07537 416905 and ‘Ask Anxia’ chatbot service, available 24/7 for all anxiety queries at See Helpline services for more information.

Anxiety UK also offer fast access to a range of psychological therapy services, including counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), clinical hypnotherapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, with appointments available in person, online and by telephone. See Therapy services for more information.

Uncertain times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it.

Previous: Coping with anxiety | Next: What can UK governments and others do to tackle anxiety?

Download the full report (PDF)

xxiv - Parent MC, Hammer JH, Bradstreet TC, Schwartz EN, Jobe T. Men’s mental health help-seeking behaviors: an& intersectional analysis. Am J Mens Health. (2018) 12:64–73. doi: 10.1177/1557988315625776

What can we do to cope with feelings of anxiety?

Dealing with anxiety can be hard. But there are some things we can do to manage these tough feelings. Have a read through our suggestions and find out what might work for you.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

On the theme of 'anxiety', this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is from 15 to 21 May 2023. Learn more about the week and how you can get involved.

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