What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and is what we feel when we are worried or fearful of something happening in the future. Things like moving home or giving presentations can cause most people to feel anxious.

Anxiety becomes a problem if the feelings are extreme and last for a very long time, if your fears are out of proportion to the situation you’re in, if they are ongoing, if worries are hard to control or they interfere with living your life. This type of anxiety can stop you from doing things you want to do or even things you enjoy.

Symptoms of anxiety can vary for different people, but can include physical symptoms like an increased heart rate, palpitations, tense muscles, rapid breathing, hyperventilating, sweating, tingling in hands or feet, restlessness, trouble focussing, stomach problems, feelings sick, dry mouth, headaches, flushes, and sleep problems.

Anxiety can also show up in psychological symptoms, such as thinking you might lose control, you think you may have a heart attack, worrying that people look at you and see your anxiety, a feeling of detachment from your environment, wanting to escape from situations and being on edge or high alert.

It can also be noticeable in what we do and don’t do, such as avoiding situations or people in case we feel anxious.

 

Anxiety can be experienced in different ways and can be classed as different disorders:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD, feeling anxious about almost everything for no apparent reason)

  • Panic disorder (recurring panic attacks without a clear trigger, and fear of the next panic attack occurring)

  • Phobias (extreme fears or anxiety triggered by specific situations or objects, such as flying on a plane or seeing a spider)

  • Social Anxiety (anxiety provoked by being in social situations like parties or workplaces)

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, irrational obsessive thoughts which mean you perform rituals or behaviours to alleviate anxiety)

  • Separation Anxiety (fear of being away from a loved one, supportive person or away from the safety of your home)

  • Health anxiety (anxiety and obsessions about your health)

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, anxiety following a traumatic event)

How can counselling help with anxiety?

Counselling can help with anxiety and is a process that requires commitment and willingness to change what you are currently doing.

CBT can help you to manage anxiety by looking at and changing the way that you think and behave. We can break down your problems into smaller, more manageable chunks, and learn techniques to deal with them.

Exposure and Response Prevention therapy can help through making us less sensitive to anxiety-provoking situations, such as for phobias or OCD. You will learn to face the things which makes you anxious, by talking about it, and finding steps to expose yourself to before tackling the biggest fear. It isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t a particularly comfortable feeling having to face your anxiety, but the process of facing your fears in a gradual manner can be hugely beneficial in the long term.

Mindfulness can help to be able to detach from the anxiety-provoking thoughts and worries we have, rather than having them spiral out of control.

Lifestyle changes can also help with anxiety, such as:

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Meditation

  • Exercise

  • Eating healthily

  • Avoiding alcohol

  • Avoiding caffeine

  • Stopping smoking

©2020 by Hayley Snelling Counsellor.

Anxiety therapist, Hove

England, United Kingdom