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Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. At different times of our lives, such as facing a job interview, an exam, or a change of circumstances, we all experience feelings of uneasiness. However, when anxious feelings become persistent and overwhelming, it can significantly impact your life. When anxieties start to interfere with your daily life, it might be a sign of something more serious.

Understanding the different types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and the most effective treatments is crucial for finding relief and regaining control over your mental wellbeing. In this blog, we aim to help you to understand anxiety and find new ways of coping.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety manifests differently for everyone. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about the future. It encompasses a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms. From feelings of dread and fear to rapid heartrate and difficulty concentrating, symptoms of anxiety is as unique and varied as those who experience them. It’s important to recognise when these feelings start to become excessive and begin to impact on your everyday life.

What are some symptoms?

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • A sense of dread or fear
  • Believing that other people are looking at you or noticing your anxiety
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling like your thoughts and feelings are out of control
  • Feeling of butterflies in your stomach
  • Feeling on edge and jumpy
  • Feeling removed or detached from your surroundings
  • Feeling sick
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Panic feelings including sweating, feeling hot and cold, heavy breathing, heart palpitations, tight chest
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Tight chest
  • Trouble concentrating

What are anxiety disorders?

When feelings of anxiety are with you all the time, they may start to interfere with your everyday life and stop you from enjoying things or even doing things you used to enjoy. It may prevent you from going on holiday. If left untreated, your anxiety is likely to keep getting worse. If your feelings are extreme and it is difficult to control your worries, or feelings of panic are interfering with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorders and can affect anyone at any age. Statistically, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders come in various forms, each with its own unique characteristics and challenges:

  • Panic disorder: Characterised by recurring panic attacks that strike unexpectedly, often accompanied by intense physical sensations.
  • Phobia: An excessive or irrational fear of a specific object or situation, leading to avoidance and significant distress.
  • Excessive worry (Generalised Anxiety Disorder): A long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious or worried about a wide variety of situations or things, rather than just one specific object or situation.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Extreme anxiety associated with social situations and interactions which affects your quality of life and engagement with social interactions.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Irrational obsessive thoughts managed by performing specific, repeated behaviours or rituals.
  • Separation anxiety: A excessive fear of being away from home or loved ones.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Persistent anxiety and feelings of stress following a traumatic experience.

Why the rise in anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society, with more people experiencing anxiety than ever before.

What could be contributing to this rise?

  1. Stressful lifestyle. High-pressured jobs, financial worries, and family challenges can all have impact on us and contribute to chronic anxiety.
  2. World events. The world around us is full of uncertainties. The impact of global events as well as ones experienced closer to home can weigh heavily on us, amplifying feelings of anxiety and insecurity.
  3. The impact of technology. While technology has its benefits, it can also add to our stress levels. Constant notifications, social media comparisons, and information overload can leave us feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.
  4. Personal experience. Past experiences, including trauma and adversity, can also play a role in feeling anxious. Unresolved traumas can resurface as anxiety symptoms and impact day-to-day life.

When to seek help

The sooner you seek help, the more likely it is that you will be able to bring your symptoms under control before they have more impact on your life, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

You may need extra support if:

  • Your anxiety symptoms have been going on for several weeks and seem to be getting worse
  • Your daily life is beginning to suffer because of your anxiety, such as impacting your relationships or not being able to enjoy the things you used to
  • You sometimes feel overwhelmed by your anxiety and you are experiencing panic attacks
  • You are aware that your anxiety has become an anxiety disorder

Treatment options

Several evidence-based and NICE guideline recommended treatments are available for anxiety disorders:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a structured therapy focused on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviours contributing to anxiety. Research consistently supports its efficacy in reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning (Hofmann et al., 2012).

Medication

Sometimes medication can also be prescribed. Medications such as antidepressants and sedatives are commonly used to treat anxiety. For more information about medications, you may wish to see your GP.

How can a qualified therapist help me?

A qualified therapist will work with you to help you improve how you feel. You will build a relationship together, built on trust, which will allow you to share your feelings in an open and collaborative way. Our therapists are specialised and experienced in treating anxiety and anxiety disorders and can help you manage any difficulties you may be experiencing.

Anxiety and anxiety disorders can be challenging to navigate, but with the right support and treatment, it’s possible to overcome their impact on your life.

Would you like to know more about how CBT can help you and your unique needs? Our consultant psychologist, Dr Sian Thrasher, offers a free 15-minute telephone consultation specifically for you to discuss CBT and treatment options.

References

Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJ, Sawyer AT, Fang A. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognit Ther Res. 2012 Oct 1;36(5):427-440. doi: 10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1. Epub 2012 Jul 31. PMID: 23459093; PMCID: PMC3584580.

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