Many people who have been critically unwell suffer from problems with their mental health afterwards. They can experience conditions such as anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

These conditions can range from mild to severe. They can also overlap meaning that some people might have more than one mental health issue.

Feelings of anxiety

It is very common for people to suffer from anxiety after being in ICU.  Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feeling worried a lot of the time
  • feeling your muscles are tense and you can't relax
  • worrying about one thing in particular – for example worrying about becoming sick again or not being able to pay the bills
  • being startled easily
  • feeling irritated easily
  • feeling like your breathing is very fast
  • feeling like your heart is racing
  • having a panic attack
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • struggling to get to sleep

Sometimes you might feel anxious without knowing what exactly is worrying you. It is also common for people to have anxiety and depression at the same time.

Often the first step for many people is to talk to a friend or family member. You may have questions about your time in ICU that they may be able to answer. Sometimes they, or you, will have been given a diary about your time in ICU.


Treatments for anxiety are tailored for you. They can include a mix of medications and other forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained specialist to help you better understand and cope with your anxiety.

Where to go for support

General practitioner (GP)

Another important person that you can talk to is your General Practitioner (GP). They may start treatment for your anxiety. They may also refer you to a psychiatrist, a psychologist or mental health counsellor.

ICU Follow-up Clinic

Depending on where you are, you might also have access to an ICU Follow-up Clinic. The staff there may be able to help you understand more about your illness and your time in ICU.

Online or in-person support groups

Online or in-person support groups can also be helpful in managing your anxiety.

Find support

Related topics

This topic was reviewed by an intensive care medicine specialist in July 2022.

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