What is Anxiety?

Anxiety shows itself in a number of ways.  You may have a feeling of unease.  This could be worry or fear that can be mild or severe.  Anxiety affects most people at some time or another and it can last for any length of time.  For most of us it passes quickly.  Anxiety is a normal and necessary emotion which can help us to respond to situations quickly and more effectively. For instance, we may feel anxious before taking an exam or a job interview or waiting for a reply to an email and as soon as the event has passed the feeling lifts and we revert back our normal feelings.  This is quite a normal response for most of us.  For others though, anxiety can become a constant.  They literally worry about anything and everything.  This can then have a major effect on their day to day lives.

 Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is the key symptom of a number of conditions including panic disorder phobias. This could be agoraphobia or claustrophobia. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and social anxiety disorder or social phobia are also under the of anxiety umbrella.  Some of these conditions, known as generalised anxiety disorders or GAD can be long-term. They can make you feel anxious about a broad range of situations or issues, rather than one specific event.

The symptoms of GAD can manifest itself psychologically (mental) or physically or both.  People with GAD often feel anxious most of the time and may struggle to remember a time when they felt ‘normal’.  As soon as one anxious feeling passes so another takes its place.  It seems like a never ending circle of negative thoughts and feelings.  Although it effects people differently the symptoms vary and can include:

  • Lack of concentration and memory difficulties
  • Having trouble sleeping or relaxing
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Dizziness or palpitations
  • IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome]
  • Odd body sensations which cannot be explained

What causes Anxiety?

Exactly what causes GAD isn’t fully understood, although it’s likely that there are a combination of factors contributing to the condition.  Extensive research exists suggesting a number of factors play a role.  These include:

  • Over activity in areas of the brain involved in emotion and behaviour
  • A possible imbalance of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and noradrenaline, which play their part in the control and regulation of moods and feelings.
  • Hereditary factors are also identified in the genes inherited from parents. It is estimated you are 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition.
  • Personal history of stress and trauma also contribute. This may include domestic violence, child abuse, bullying or social exclusion.
  • Physical health conditions such as arthritis
  • Substance addiction or alcoholism

Many people cannot identify a cause for their anxiety and only during counselling realise that they they are no longer living the life that they want to live, by their own standards and values.

 Who is affected?

It is estimated that up to 5% of the population of the UK have some form of GAD.  It affects women more than men but only moderately and it is common place in those between the age of 35 to 59 but exclusive to this age group.

 How GAD is treated?

Despite the significant effect it can have on your life, several treatments are readily available.  Depending upon the severity, these can ease your symptoms and in time can eradicate them. They include:

  • Counselling such as cognitive behavioural approach or person centred counselling
  • Medication
  • Hypnotherapy

 Do Self Help remedies work?

Anything you do to help alleviate GAD is a good thing and there are many things you can do yourself.  The internet is a remarkable resource for all things and you can find some effective options to help yourself.  These include:

  • Exercising regularly – walking, Yoga and Tai Chi are particularly good
  • Relaxation and mindfulness meditation
  • Reducing the amount of alcohol or caffeine intake
  • Improving work-life balance
  • Self-help courses either online or as a group activity
  • Stop using recreational drugs
  • Stop smoking

Some people have tried to soothe their anxiety by using alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, binge eating, the internet or pornography to self sooth their anxious feelings and in the beginning these seem to help, but in time these can become “the problem” and the original cause for the anxiety goes undetected. This is a reason that the advice for reducing anxiety symptoms include

  • Reducing the amount of alcohol or caffeine intake
  • Stop using recreational drugs
  • Reduce smoking

Numerous books and articles exists to help reduce the effects of anxiety, many of them are free if you search the internet (You are reading one now!).

Whatever treatment you undertake for anxiety, the process may continue for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen but you need to persevere.

 Getting help is much easier than you may think

Recognising the symptoms and accepting you may be suffering from GAD is the biggest step you will take in tackling your problems.  Seeking help may appear difficult to many people as they can find it difficult to make the initial approach.  However, of the 3 million or so people suffering with GAD many do seek help and go on to control their anxiety and drastically improve their quality of life.  Your GP can help but with the cuts in health budgets the wait for professional help can take time and then the treatments available are limited to a few sessions.  More and more, people are turning to private mental health professional who specialise in psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), person centred counselling and even hypnotherapy.  Complimentary therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture all help towards controlling anxiety and a combination of these therapies can really help.  Physical exercise in the form of Yoga and Tai Chi are tried and tested over millennia and help reduce anxiety and stress, millions and millions of Chinese can’t be wrong!

 Finding Help for Your anxiety

Finding help for your anxiety is easier these days with the continuing development of the internet.  If you are still reading this, then the chances are you ready to begin your journey towards a more anxiety free life.  Do not be put-off by the thought of making initial contact.  Mental health professionals understand the impact of anxiety and will put you at ease straight away.

Choosing professional help is straightforward.  You can search for a therapist in your local area using Google. A quick call is all it takes and as with everything else in life you make your decision based on the rapport you establish with the practitioner. If you like the sound of someone and you feel there may be a connection, then you can book an assessment session and many practitioners offer the first consultation for free.  Even following the initial consultation there is no obligation to continue. Check out your therapist is bona fide and registered with a professional body such as the counselling directory, BACP or HCPC etc.

 Cost of private therapy

The cost of engaging a private therapist can vary slightly depending on the type of therapy and the location.  Typically, you may pay a little extra in large cities but the average cost per session, normally lasting around an hour is between £35 and £60 (2016).  The frequency and number of sessions will depend upon the complexities of your anxiety.  Sadly, there are no magic pills for this condition however, anecdotal evidence suggests you will begin to start feeling better after a couple of sessions, once you experience a sense of connection, empathy and understanding from your therapist.

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