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Anxiety

All of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives.
Feeling nervous or anxious before something stressful like a job interview or exam, is to be expected. But when anxiety becomes problematic, it can stop you from being able to do the things you want to do, and can be extremely debilitating.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is something we experience when we perceive a threat or danger, whether it is real or imagined. When your brain detects a threat or danger, something called your fight or flight response gets triggered and causes various physical changes in your body as well as changes in your thinking and emotions, to either fight the threat or flee from it.

 

The fight/flight response has evolved over millions of years to enable human beings to survive as a species – it helps us get out of the way of danger. For example, if you were crossing the road and saw a bus hurtling towards you, you would jump out of the way. This is because your fight/flight response has been triggered, and quickly caused various changes to enable you to use your muscles to get out of the way.

When anxiety is a problem, we tend to be on the look out for danger and our threat response can trigger regularly, which makes can make getting on with normal life very difficult.

How can anxiety affect you?

Anxiety can affect us in many different ways. Some common physical signs of anxiety include:

  • Feeling light headed or dizzy

  • Sweating

  • Feeling restless or unable to sit still

  • Nausea or churning in stomach

  • Dry mouth

  • Needing the toilet more or less often

  • Shallow breathing, breathing faster

  • Shaking or trembling

  • Numbness or pins and needles

How anxiety can affect your thinking and emotions:

  • Feeling on edge

  • Feeling fearful

  • Feeling nervous

  • Unable to relax

  • Feeling agitated

  • A sense of impending doom/something bad might happen

  • Worry about things that might happen

  • Worry about the anxiety itself

  • Worry that the anxiety will never go away

  • Overthinking, going over and over different worries

 

 

Anxiety can impact all aspects of your life, from home life, to work and social life. Simple things like going shopping or meeting a friend for a coffee can become very difficult, especially if you fear that the anxiety might show up. Over time, this can impact your mood and even lead to low mood or depression.

What are the different types of anxiety?

Anxiety can be experienced in many different ways, and as such there are many different types of anxiety:

 

  • Generalised anxiety – with generalised anxiety you are likely to experience uncontrollable worry about different things in your life.

  • Panic attacks – sudden, intense anxiety that produces a range of physical symptoms. Panic attacks can be very distressing and it is common to become very fearful that another panic attack might occur.

  • Health anxiety – anxiety concerning any aspect of your health that results in being hypervigilant for signs and symptoms of diseases or health conditions.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – when you experience repetitive, distressing, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and compulsive behaviours.

  • Social anxiety – an overwhelming fear of social situations that is characterised by worry before, during and after social situations.

  • Phobias – an intense and overwhelming fear of an object, situation, place or feeling. For example, spiders, heights, vomiting, confined spaces.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety caused by a traumatic or number of traumatic events. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of any reminders of the trauma.

How can talking therapy help anxiety?

Psychological therapy can help with all types of anxiety. Research has found that cognitive behaviour therapy is effective in treating a range of anxiety problems, and is the treatment recommended for generalised anxiety, panic disorder, OCD and social anxiety (NICE 2005, 2013, 2020).

 

Trauma focused CBT is recommended for PTSD (2018). Alongside CBT, other therapies can be effective including acceptance and commitment therapy (Tjak et al, 2015) and compassion focused therapy (Craig et al, 2020).

How can I get help for anxiety?

We are experts in helping people with all different types of anxiety, using a range of therapeutic approaches and techniques. 

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Further reading

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The Defusion Wheel

When we are anxious we can get very stuck in our thoughts. This article discusses what can help get us 'unstuck' so that our thoughts do not have such power over us

What Keeps Worry Going?

Do you get stuck in worry spirals? In this article we discuss the 3 beliefs that may keep your worry going.

Mind Like a River .jpeg

Cope With Anxious Thoughts

It can often feel like we are in a sea of anxious thoughts and worries. This article outlines some simple techniques to help cope with anxiety.

References

Craig, C., Hiskey, S & Spector, A. (2020) Compassion focused therapy: a systematic review of its effectiveness and acceptability in clinical populations, Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 20:4, 385-400.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2005). Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: management. Clinical guideline [CG113].

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2005). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder: treatment. Clinical guideline [CG31].

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2013). Social anxiety disorder: recognition, assessment and treatmentClinical guideline [CG159].

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2018). Post-traumatic stress disorder. NICE guideline [NG116]

Tjak J.G., Davis M.L., Morina N., Powers M.B., Smits, J.A. & Emmelkamp, P.M. (2015). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy for clinically relevant mental and physical health problems. Psychother Psychosom;84(1): 30-6.