Resource type: Article

Feeling anxious

Is it common to feel anxious after Intensive Care?

It's very common (and completely understandable) to feel anxious or uptight after Intensive Care. Research suggests that up to 4 in 10 Intensive Care patients suffer from anxiety at some point.

Why am I so anxious?

Some patients remember little of their time in Intensive Care, or their memories might be "jumbled" in amongst some strange but very real and vivid dreams, such that it's difficult to make sense of what's happened.You may feel worried and confused not knowing what happened or what to expect.You may feel isolated and find it difficult to talk to staff or family and friends about your concerns and how you feel.  

You may feel understandably anxious for any number of reasons, not least that you are in the early stages of recovery from a serious illness, operation or accident.You may still be struggling to come to terms with how ill you were, especially if you became ill very quickly or unexpectedly (if things didn't go as planned during routine surgery, for example, or if you had an accident). People often worry about becoming ill again. You might be anxious about how long it takes to get back to normal, or when you'll get back to work.

Symptoms of anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety can be physical as well as emotional. They include: a pounding heart, feeling hot, dizzy or light-headed, muscle tension, feeling shaky and unsteady, hot or cold sweats, and having difficulty breathing. Emotional symptoms include feeling afraid, fearing the worst, fear of becoming ill again and fear of dying.

What can I do to help myself?

There are a great many things you can do to help yourself. Probably the most important thing to do is to talk to family and friends about how you're feeling. Some people (but not everyone) find it helpful to find out more about their time in Intensive Care.You can do this by asking your family about what happened, asking to speak with the staff involved in your care, visiting the Intensive Care Unit or asking to see your medical notes. It might help to hear about other people's experiences, through the information on this and other websites, by joining our chat room, or by going to a patient support meeting (currently run in Dundee).

We've included a number of free self-help guides on this website, which we hope you find useful.If your symptoms are very severe, or don't seem to be getting any better, talk to your GP.