Anxiety is a normal and sometimes helpful experience - however, it can also become problematic. Read to find out more.
Read to find out more
- Slow your breathing
- Challenge worrying thoughts
- Practice doing small things that make you anxious
- Shift your focus from worrying thoughts
- Set aside worry time
- Anxiety is a very common experience, and will typically affect about 1 in 4 people significantly in their lifetime.
- Anxiety is more prevalent in developed countries, with the U.S. having one of the highest rates of anxiety in the world.
- 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.
- Anxiety is often treatable with either psychological therapies, medication, or a combination of both.
- There are many different types of anxiety - general anxiety, social anxiety and health anxiety are just a few examples.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 (insert link to What Is CBT?).
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.
What if talking about things makes my problems worse?
It can understandably be painful to talk about things that feel difficult in our lives. It might lead us to feel strong emotions such as sadness, anxiety or anger. Therapy helps to identify these feelings and work on them together, with the aim of helping people to accept and move forward with their lives. Therapy should always be taken at the pace of the individual and you should never feel pressured to talk about anything you don’t feel ready to. You can always let the therapist know if you are worried about how therapy is making you feel and you should always have a space to debrief after talking about anything difficult.
Our therapists specialising in anxiety
Because we are online we can work with the Best therapists from across the country. Every HelloSelf therapist is an accredited psychotherapist who is both HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) registered and a member of the BPS (British Psychological Society).
Every HelloSelf therapist is interviewed and checked by our team & Clinical Director. We pride ourselves on working with the best Therapists in the UK, and our assessment process ensures we provide only the highest standards for our members.
Dr Elizabeth Lawson
Prior to moving into private practice, I worked at The Retreat in York. I worked within the CBT service, personality disorder service and eating disorder service.
Ms Kirstie Wright
Since qualifying as a CBT Therapist I have worked as a CBT Therapist in both primary and secondary care and supervised people carrying out Low Intensity CBT Interventions.