February 8, 2024

Anxiety and how we help

What is Anxiety?


Anxiety is a normal emotion which we all experience at times, to a lesser or larger degree. Anxiety is a general term for a set of symptoms, physical and psychological, which often is a natural way for our body to respond to threat - real or imagined. Anxiety is a normal and sometimes helpful experience - however, it can also become problematic.

Actions that can help

  1. Slow your breathing
  2. Challenge worrying thoughts
  3. Practice doing small things that make you anxious
  4. Shift your focus from worrying thoughts
  5. Set aside worry time

Symptoms

Regardless of what type of anxiety one may experience, there are a few symptoms common to anxiety in general:

Feeling nervous, restless and on edge

Some people have a feeling that something bad is going to happen. There may also be a sensation of butterflies in the stomach. These can make you feel nauseous and/or make you lose your appetite.

Pounding heart

Your heart rate may increase as a result of anxiety.

Changes to your breathing (hyperventilation)

Some people start breathing more rapidly when feeling anxious.

More frequent visits to the toilet

Anxiety can affect your bowels and bladder, resulting in you having to visit the toilet more often than usual.

Shaking and sweating

You can experience trembling hands or trembling all over - it is common to experience shaky legs in addition to increased sweating.

Difficulty concentrating

You may struggle to focus on the task at hand, finding yourself repeatedly distracted by worrying thoughts or physical sensations.

Worrying about worrying

You may be concerned that if you stop worrying about things in the past, present or future, things will get worse. Or you may worry about the amount you’re worrying and the effect it is having on you and your life.

Seeking reassurance from others and avoidance

You may seek support from others around you to help manage your anxiety. Often people share their worries and seek reassurance. Others may avoid people or places that seem to cause anxiety. These strategies may help in the short run but can sometimes maintain and/or exacerbate anxiety in the longer term.

Fatigue

Being in a heightened state for periods of time can be tiring and some people report feeling weak. Sleep can also be disrupted as people find themselves finding it hard to fall asleep or waking frequently worrying about things.

Racing thoughts

It can feel like your thoughts are going a million miles per hour. These thoughts can sometimes be repetitive and focus on one specific topic, or represent many different areas at once.

Detachment from your environment

You can start feeling distant from the environment you find yourself in, or like it’s not real.

These are just some examples of anxiety symptoms - just like with everything else, each of our experiences are unique. However, if you can start recognising a set of symptoms that you usually experience and that you associate with anxiety, it can be the first step towards learning how to cope in a helpful way.

Treatment

Anxiety is usually treatable, even though many people who experience anxiety may not have access to, or receive, the treatment that they need. There is no ONE cure for anxiety, as everyone is different (and the causes and their experience of anxiety differs) but there are some treatments that have been proven clinically effective for a lot of people worldwide. We outline a couple of them below:

Self-help for anxiety

There is a wealth of resources, both online and available through (for instance) your GP, which describe how you can manage living with anxiety and which have proven helpful for many. Included in these are speaking to a trusted friend, reframing your worrying thoughts, exercising and breathing exercises. This is not an exhaustive list, of course.

Talking therapies

Talking therapies have proven effective in the treatment of anxiety. Engaging in psychological therapy gives you a space to understand potential triggers of your anxiety, what helps and what makes it harder to manage, and look at developing helpful ways to cope, amongst other things. There are different therapeutic approaches that have proven effective in the treatment of anxiety, for instance Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Medication

Some prescribed medication can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and reduce its impact on your day-to-day life. You should talk to your GP or psychiatrist about the options available for you, the benefits and the potential side-effects of any medication. Medication can be prescribed as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with, for instance, talking therapies.

Anxiety - Five facts

  1. Anxiety is a very common experience, and will typically affect about 1 in 4 people significantly in their lifetime.
  2. Anxiety is more prevalent in developed countries, with the U.S. having one of the highest rates of anxiety in the world.
  3. People with anxiety tend to be more aware of the people around them, and may be more sensitive to what they’re experiencing internally, according to research.
  4. Anxiety is often treatable with either psychological therapies, medication, or a combination of both.
  5. There are many different types of anxiety - general anxiety, social anxiety and health anxiety are just a few examples.

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