In Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, The Bake Off Star Shares Valuable Lessons About Mental Health

"Anxiety disorders don’t discriminate."

We can all experience feelings of anxiety from time to time, but living with a longterm anxiety disorder is very different.

In a new BBC documentary, Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, celebrity baker Nadiya Hussain explores her own experiences of anxiety and panic attacks.

As she learns more about the condition that has troubled her since childhood, the bubbly, funny Bake Off winner is proof personal that external appearances can be deceptive when it comes to mental health.

It’s just one of the valuable lessons that hits home during this hour-long show, released to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Nadiya Hussain
Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya embarks on a journey of self-reflection to answer three main questions: what is anxiety, why does it happen and how can it be treated?

She meets David Clarke from the University of Oxford, the NHS adviser for improving access to help for anxiety disorders, who teaches her anxiety is a response to a perceived threat, but that people with anxiety disorders regularly perceive a threat when there simply isn’t one.

“Anxiety disorders don’t discriminate between people,” he says. “Over 25% of us will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in our life.”

But despite the prevalence of anxiety disorders, they can be poorly detected.

“If you take the other common mental health problem, depression, and you ask people who have got depression ‘has any health professional ever spotted it?’ it’s about 70%, which is quite good,” he explains. “But if you take anxiety disorders and ask the same question, it’s only about 20%.”

Which is why programmes like this one are so important.

As Nadiya learns more about the symptoms of anxiety – including shortness of breath, a racing heart and feelings of nausea – we too gain the knowledge to spot the symptoms in ourselves and loved ones – the first step in seeking help.

Nadiya during a CBT session.
Nadiya during a CBT session.

Nadiya had never received a formal diagnosis before the show and her history of trying to manage her anxiety alone is something a lot of viewers will relate to.

Research suggests up to 12 million UK adults who experience mental health issues do not seek help – with embarrassment cited as the main obstacle.

Yet Nadiya details the very real impact anxiety has had on her life. She bravely admits “I don’t have any friends any more” and becomes tearful as she realises she can’t remember the last time she felt relaxed. Anxiety, she says, feels like a monster that refuses to leave her head.

“It tells you that you’re not good enough. It tells you that you’re inadequate and it tells you that you’re a bad mother,” she tells her sisters. “It tells you that you’re the worst sister in the world, the most disappointing daughter that ever lived. It tells you that you’re an inadequate wife.”

For Nadiya, receiving cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – captured on camera – begins to make a difference, unpicking the childhood bullying that might have triggered her anxiety, as well as teaching her coping mechanisms.

But ultimately, she learns there’s no quick fix for mental health problems, instead discovering optimism in the small steps she’s making.

“I came into this thinking I wanted a cure and I wanted to be fixed, but I know now that it’s not a cure I’m looking for,” she says. “It’s not a cure, because it’s not that kind of illness. I have to find a way of managing it and I have to find a way of living like this.”

In a world where nearly nine in 10 people with mental health problems say stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives, honesty like Nadiya’s feels like something we all need.

Nadiya: Anxiety and Me airs on BBC One on Wednesday 15 May at 9pm.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on