Mental health problems are more common than you think. 

The 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) looked at 7,500 adults (aged 16-74) in England to get an estimate for the number of people living with a common emotional and mental health problem, and how many of them were then getting specialist support. 

It found that 16.67% of adults met the criteria for a common emotional and mental health problem, but only 33.33% of adults were getting specialist support to help them cope. About 20% of women, and 12.5% of men, reported symptoms of common emotional and mental health problems

Women are also more likely to report severe symptoms – 10% of women have reported severe symptoms of common emotional and mental health problems compared to 6% of men.

Common emotional and mental health problems include: anxiety, depression, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder (panic attacks).

Here’s what else the survey found… 

- If you have anxiety, then you’re not alone. 5.9% of people surveyed had anxiety. 

- If you are battling with depression, then you’re not alone. 3.3% of people surveyed had depression.

- If you have a phobia, then you’re not alone. 2.4% of people surveyed had a phobia. 

- If you have OCD, then you’re not alone. 1.3% of people surveyed had OCD. 

- If you suffer with panic attacks, then you’re not alone. 0.6% of people surveyed had panic attacks.  

- And if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression together, then you’re not alone. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health problem with 7.8% of people surveyed suffering from both. 

We take a look at just how common the common emotional health problems are, and Virgin Care Private's Consultant Psychologist, Sabina Bedi, offers some advice to help you cope with anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD and panic attacks. 

A female patient talking to a Virgin Care Private specialist


Anxiety is a general feeling of worry, nervousness or unease. 

Common symptoms of anxiety 

- Anxiety affects your thinking. This may be fearing that something bad is going to happen, over-worrying, feeling fearful. Your beliefs can also affect how you feel – irrational stresses lead to exaggerated fears 

- Anxiety affects you physically. This may cause irregular breathing, stomach churning, heart racing, a constant feeling of nervousness and feeling light-headed. These physical symptoms might cause you to worry more, which increases your levels of worry and stress 

- Anxiety affects your behaviour. This may mean you find yourself avoiding situations that cause anxiety, like leaving the house 

Common situations that might bring about anxiety  

- Long periods of stress  

- Traumatic events

-A tendency to worry a lot 

How to cope with anxiety 

If you’re feeling anxious, Sabina offers this psychological support:

“Try controlled breathing exercises or a form of exercise that suits you to help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, and acts as a distraction technique to keep your mind off your worries. Other distraction techniques include going for a walk, trying crosswords or take part in a hobby you enjoy. 

Relaxation helps slow down your physical symptoms, and reduces anxiety-induced hormones. It also helps to reduce muscle aches if you’re feeling tense because of anxiety. The ability to relax comes naturally for some, but it can take longer for others. 

You can also try practising mindfulness and meditation – staying in the here and now, existing in the present moment to prevent anxiety that’s brought about from worrying about future problems from becoming overwhelming.

It's also a good idea to limit the amount of caffeine you're having if you're feeling anxious, as the stimulant can increase levels of anxiety." 

A group of people meditating in a park, which can help reduce anxiety


Depression is a general state of low mood that lasts for a long period. 

Common symptoms of depression 

- Disturbed sleep - you might oversleep, or you can find it hard to get to sleep  

- High levels of hopelessness – not wanting to do anything – and helplessness – believing that things just aren’t going to get better 

- You might not want to go out or do activities you’ve enjoyed in the past 

- You might think of carrying out self-harm 

- A low self-esteem and low levels of energy 

- You might find it difficult to concentrate, which can start to affect your work 

Common situations that might bring about feelings of depression  

- Bereavement 

- Family problems 

- Difficult life events like work stresses and relationship problems

How to cope with depression

If you’re feeling depressed, Sabina offers this psychological support: 

“Coping with depression isn't something you have to face on your own. 

Try and make sure you have a good social support system, where you’re talking to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. Don’t isolate yourself. 

It’s also important to practise self-care, and take time out from the busyness of life. 

If you’re finding it hard to talk to your friends and family, or you’re finding it difficult to know where to begin with self-care, you might find it easier to talk to a GP or psychologist. It can sometimes be easier to talk to somebody you don’t know, and they’ll be able to work with you on a treatment plan - there are many treatments available that can help reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.”

A woman having coffee with a friend. Try and make sure you have a good social support system


A phobia is an extreme and irrational fear. You might have a phobia of spiders (arachnophobia), or a fear of small spaces (claustrophobia). 

You might experience physical and/or emotional symptoms with a phobia: 

Common physical symptoms of a phobia 

- Sweating 

- Trembling 

- Hot flushes or chills 

- A shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

- A rapid heartbeat 

- Nausea 

- A pain or tightness in chest 

- Headaches and dizziness

Common emotional symptoms of a phobia 

- A fear of losing control 

- A fear of fainting 

- Feelings of dread 

- A fear of dying 

Common situations that might cause a phobia  

- An unpleasant experience, like being attacked by a dog 

- A simple fear, like the sight of blood or heights 

- Social situations, like social interaction, speaking, eating, talking in public areas 

- A fear of confined spaces (agoraphobia), where you would most likely avoid those situations and stay at home where you feel safe   

How to cope with a phobia

If you’re suffering from a phobia, Sabina offers this psychological support:

“Seek psychological support from an expert. They’ll be able to prescribe a graded exposure treatment in either Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapies, which gradually exposes you to the fear so you feel less anxious about it.” 

A male patient seeking psychological support from an expert about a phobia

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 

OCD is having obsessional thoughts about unwanted things. OCD can often result in you avoiding the objects that trigger obsessions.

Common symptoms of OCD  

- An obsessional thought to do with images 

- Impulses to do things like cleaning or door checking rituals  

- A fear of germs and contaminated objects

Common situations that might cause OCD 

- A traumatic event 

- A learnt behaviour in the family 

- A way of coping with stress 

- OCD can also come about from anxiety  

How to cope with OCD

If you’re suffering from OCD, Sabina offers this psychological support:

“If you think the thoughts you’re having are obsessive, it’s always good to speak to someone you trust to help process your feelings. 

But it can be hard to get out of obsessive regimes and rituals, and if OCD is having an impact on your life, then seek psychological support from a specialist. They’ll be able to work with you to find different coping strategies for managing and stopping the obsessive thoughts you’re having.”  

A woman writing. Specialists will be able to work with you to find different coping strategies for managing and stopping obsessive thoughts

Panic disorder  

Panic disorder is a form of anxiety that causes regular panic attacks, often out of the blue.  

Common symptoms of a panic attack  

- Feeling like your body’s physical symptoms of breathlessness, light-headedness and heart palpitations are you having a heart attack  

- Difficulty breathing as an emotional response to anxiety, which then increases your physical symptoms and your heart rate


Common situations that might cause a panic attack 

- A history of health problems 

- A bereavement 

- Family problems 

- Stress at work 

- Feeling like something bad is going to happen all the time 

- Interpreting physical symptoms as a heart attack – feeling like you might die, faint or collapse as a result 

How to cope with panic attacks

If you’re suffering from panic attacks, Sabina offers this psychological support:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be really good to help you work out the triggers of your panic attacks, and to develop coping strategies that work on reframing your response to situations. CBT also teaches relaxation and distraction exercises to reduce the physical symptoms of panic attacks.” 

It’s important to remember that everybody experiences emotional and mental health problems differently, and the symptoms you experience may be different to the common signs listed above. 

A group of people meditating in a park, which can help you to cope with panic attacks

And if you’ve read this article, and you think you might be struggling with one of the common emotional and mental health problems we've discussed, then we hope you know: you’re not alone. 

Our emotional wellbeing specialists are here if you need them, to help you get back to feeling your best 0300 247 0121.

For more help and advice on coping with emotional and mental health problems like anxiety, listen to Dominic Frisby's interview with therapist, Chloe Brotheridge, the creator of MindJournal, Ollie Aplin and clinical psychologist, Genevieve von Lob on the Virgin Live.Life.Better. podcast. They discuss their approaches to anxiety, stress and mindfulness for Mental Health Awareness week.