Anxiety is experienced by most people at one time or another. It is different to stress in that it tends to last longer and when sever can have a crippling effect on our day to day life. Whilst stress is often triggered by an external event such as an accident, financial pressures or relationship problems, anxiety tends to last longer and we may not have a clear reason to feel the way we do.
Anxiety can change the way we think about things and cause us to worry about what might happen in the future in the form of “what if” type thinking. We may also worry about things going wrong and also have thoughts that there is something wrong with us, that we are not good enough, we are seriously ill or that we are going mad. These thought processes tend to make the physical symptoms of anxiety worse.
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety are:
Increased heart rate – heart palpitations – muscle tension – shakiness – hyperventilation (over breathing) – dizziness – difficulty in breathing – feeling sick – tightness across the chest area – tension headaches – hot flushes – sweating – dry mouth – choking sensations – blurred vision.
Anxiety doesn’t always have a specific trigger, it may come as a result of a life event like a bereavement or divorce or it may come out of the blue and not for any particular reason. Counselling and therapy can help you get to the root cause of the problem which may not be immediately obvious to you. There is often an underlying reason why you feel the way you do and this can be explored so you are able to get a better understanding of what you need to do to change how you feel. Often the most distressing part of anxiety is not understanding the reasons you feel the way you do leading to a constant battle to try to work out what’s wrong.
Types of anxiety that we may experience are:
Generalised anxiety disorder – feelings of anxiety which seem to occur most of the time, often worse in the morning and do not seem to have a specific reason or trigger.
Panic attacks/ Panic disorder – short, intense bursts of anxiety which cause a flood of symptoms such as a racing heart and problems breathing usually accompanied by catastrophic thoughts such as having a heart attack/ stroke or believing there is an imminent threat of harm.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – An anxiety disorder characterised by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviours which reduces the symptoms of anxiety in the short term however can lead to mental or behavioural rituals which become problematic and adversely affect a person’s day to day life.
Health Anxiety – A pre=occupation with being physically or mentally unwell leading to behaviours such as regularly checking the body, misinterpreting sensations in the body for serious illness and seeking reassurance from a doctor or online sources.
Social anxiety – Anxiety in social situations or when there is a lot of people present such as parties, restaurants, large crowds. This often leads to people avoiding social occasions as being around people can trigger feelings of anxiety or panic attacks and a need to escape the situation.
Phobias – Anxiety created by the presence of an external situation or object such as a fear of heights, animals, needles etc. Or due to a fear of having a panic attack or other distressing symptoms as in agoraphobia.
Counselling and therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you understand your anxiety and how to manage it on a day to day basis. If the anxiety is severe or recurring Psychotherapy can assist you in understanding the root causes of your anxiety and how to work through the difficulties you are experiencing.