What creates anxiety?
Anxiety is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. In most cases it is related to specific events such as; exams, job interviews, going into hospital, moving, marriage, divorce or even being diagnosed with an illness.
The feelings of fear and tension come from our bodies natural fight or flight instinct which exists to protect us from danger. When we feel under threat the body prepares, by releasing hormones, to either run away or fight the danger. Once the danger has passed the body then relaxes and the feelings of anxiety pass.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it is very severe, is long-lasting and has no obvious cause. It can affect all areas of your life, from work and hobbies to personal relationships. Anxiety affects everyone in different ways so it’s important to describe your particular symptoms and difficulties to one of our psychologists so that they can assess their severity and advise on the best treatment for you.
Anxiety has both physical and psychological effects. Some of the common symptoms are:
There are different types of anxiety disorder
Generalised Anxiety Disorder – a broad diagnosis meaning you have felt anxious for a long time but without an obvious cause. If general worrying or anxiety becomes severe it can be diagnosed as GAD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – anxiety leads to experiencing obsessions (unwelcome thoughts, images, urges or doubts which are repeating) and compulsions (repetitive activities you have to complete)
Phobias – an intense fear of something, even when it is not dangerous to you.
Social anxiety – anxiety is brought on by social situations, such as public speaking or attending social events.
Panic disorder – experiencing panic attacks which are unpredictable and have no apparent trigger.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety after experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. Specialist symptoms include; flashbacks, intrusive memories and hyper-vigilance.
Panic attacks are overwhelming physical sensations caused by an exaggeration of your bodies normal response to fear. Sensations include:
- Shaking (worrying you are losing control)
- A pounding heartbeat (worrying you are having a heart attack)
- Feeling faint (being afraid you may faint)
- Chest pains (being afraid you are going to die)
- Feeling unable to breath
Panic attacks can happen at any time, day or night and can wake you up from sleep. They are particularly frightening at when they wake you up, as you may be confused about what is happening. They usually come on very suddenly and most last between 5 to 20 minutes, although they can occur one after another.
How does therapy help with anxiety?
NICE guidelines (2011) suggest that when identifying the most appropriate treatment option there are many factors to consider including; history, severity and the amount of time you have experienced these issues for and the presence of any other disorders (such as depression). Guidelines recommend that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), applied relaxation and potentially medication (in combination with therapy) are optimum treatments for moderate to severe anxiety, with lower intensity therapies being appropriate for milder difficulties.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) –CBT is a therapy concerned with the relationship between thoughts and behaviours which create and maintain anxiety. CBT for anxiety works by challenging the cognitions (thoughts) that you are having, which tend to be negative and learning to replace these negative thoughts with realistic thoughts, therefore reducing your level of anxiety. This in turn helps to reduce the unhelpful behaviours which are often developed to help cope with high levels of anxiety.
Counselling and Psychotherapy – This approach is most suitable when anxiety is mild or below the clinical threshold. There are different types of psychotherapy available. Psychotherapy aims to help you to understand your personal needs and how to improve your future wellbeing.
Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a practice which has Buddhist origins and has been around for thousands of years. It is state which is achieved by focusing in on the here and now, acknowledging thoughts, feelings and sensations but not attempting to get rid of them or judge them
Medication – therapy can be used instead of or in conjunction with medication. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication so you would need to consult a doctor or psychiatrist for this. We are then able to work alongside the prescribing physician providing a complimentary talking therapy.