What is Anxiety?
When we perceive that we’re under threat, anxiety is our natural human response that can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. We tend to experience feelings of anxiety when we’re tense, worried or afraid about things we know, or think, could happen. Common during times of stress, most people will feel anxious at times.
Anxiety will feel different for everyone, but some common symptoms include:
- A churning stomach
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Faster breathing (hyperventilation)
- Increased heart rate or thumping heart
- Panic attacks
- Feeling worried
- Feeling tense, nervous and unable to relax.
Anxiety can become problematic if it impacts upon your day-to-day life or ability to live life as fully as you want to.
It’s time to seek help if you:
- Feel like you’re worrying too much or it’s started to interfere with your relationships or work
- Are struggling to control feelings of fear or worry
- Feel depressed or have other mental health concerns in addition to anxiety
- Are using substances like alcohol or drugs to manage your anxiety
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviours it’s time to seek emergency treatment immediately.
Although occasional stress-induced anxiety is a normal part of life, trauma, life experiences and medical issues can trigger anxiety disorders. An anxiety disorder is a sustained mental health disorder that can be exacerbated by stress caused by current issues and problems in your life.
Risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder can include:
- Childhood abuse, trauma or witnesses a traumatic event
- Trauma in adulthood
- Having other mental health problems or disorders
- A build-up of smaller stressful events
- A painful, long-term medical condition
- Certain medications
- Familial history of anxiety disorders
- Drug or alcohol misuse
Unlike stress - which is usually a short-term experience - anxiety for someone with an anxiety disorder doesn’t fade once the perceived threat is mediated. Anxiety can persist and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.
One of the most common anxiety disorders in the UK is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which affects up to 5% of adults. GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a variety of issues and situations rather than just one event. People with GAD experience feelings of anxiety most days and may struggle to remember what it’s like to feel relaxed.
Other examples of anxiety disorders:
Separation anxiety disorder
|Often mistaken for being a fear of open spaces, agoraphobia is a disorder characterised by the fear and avoidance of places or situations that might cause you to panic or feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.||Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of intense anxiety, fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes resulting in a panic attack.||Social phobia is characterised by high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment or self-consciousness.||Separation anxiety disorder is a disorder often associated with children but can be experienced in adulthood as well. It is characterised by excessive anxiety related to separation from individuals you have a strong attachment to, including partners, caregivers parents, and sometimes pets.|
How Can Psychotherapy and Counselling Help?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently so the therapy process is tailored to your needs. Rather than just focussing on the symptoms, psychotherapy and counselling can help by addressing the underlying issues which are fuelling anxious thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Counselling offers a safe and non-judgemental space to examine what your mind and body are telling you while exploring and challenging your thoughts and the meaning of your anxiety.
By taking a deeper look at what might be contributing to your worries, it’s possible to make meaningful and longer-lasting changes.
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