What is anxiety?
Anxiety is something we all feel from time to time; it is a natural instinctive response to a stressor or danger. For example it is not uncommon for someone to feel anxious or fearful about a new situation, a health check or a test. Anxiety has the ability to equip us to perform to our optimum level; many incredible actors, musicians, sports persons and public figures get nervous and feel anxiety before a performance, yet they are able to harness this energy and use it positively. Anxiety also has the power to create immense fear within us, for some these instinctive reactions control and restrict lives. For more please see our What is anxiety? page.
Approximately 16% of the UK population is affected by troublesome anxiety. Anxiety has reached a level in their lives that it has created a problem for them. Anxiety changes from being a natural response that is managed and controlled and instead has a detrimental effect on their lives.
An anxiety disorder exists when the level of anxiety is considered higher than the situation would naturally expect, if the level of anxiety is high for a long period of time, is present when no danger exists and/or is creating a problem in everyday life.
If you are struggling with anxiety finding the right anxiety counsellor can help Linda Newbold specialises in anxiety and trauma issues, she and other experts can be found in our counselling directory.
The 'Flight or Fight' response
When our bodies feel danger (this maybe real or perceived) chemicals kick in to prepare us to face or flee the danger. This is an instinctive reaction and it is known as the 'fight or flight’‘response. If there is no need to use the excess chemicals or the increased oxygen supply, then our bodies begin to act against us, the decreased carbon dioxide levels in our lungs and blood causes us to feel dizzy and disoriented, we can begin to hyperventilate and panic.
Anxiety can be specific or general. This means it can occur in response to a stressful event (specific) or be present all the time (general). Please see below for more about different disorders.
Types of anxiety disorder
Types of Anxiety
3 or more of
Symptoms last for a period of time & affect different areas of functioning
Unpredictable recurrent episodes of anxiety resulting in panic symptoms. Resulting urge to flee or avoid situations.
Generally starting in childhood characterised by obsessing or performing rituals or checks in response to worrying thoughts.
Essentially fear of open spaces or places where it may be difficult to escape from. Sufferers experience intense anxiety or panic even when thinking about these situations; often agoraphobics will become housebound in a quest to avoid them.
Excessive worry about health problems. Anxiety may start with a bad personal experience of illness or a friend who is ill.
Anxieties around being in social situations possibly with people you do not know or where you fear embarrassing yourself. Avoidance of these situations.
Specific Phobias, e.g.
Fear of vomit
Fear of spiders
Fear of enclosed spaces
Onset experienced in the aftermath of a life threatening/traumatic situation. Symptoms can include intrusive thoughts (flashbacks), hyper vigilance, depression and avoidance. Click to find out if you may be entitled to PTSD Compensation.
Anxiety disorder treatments
We would recommend that you discuss any symptoms you might have with a qualified professional such as a GP, psychiatrist or psychologist. They will be able to assess you on your individual circumstances and symptoms as well as rule out any other medical conditions.
Anxiety itself can be treated in a variety of ways, each disorder will require slightly different approaches, and each individual will respond differently. Your GP/healthcare provider may suggest trying one, or a combination of the following:
Psychotherapy and counselling for anxiety disorders include
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Applied Relaxation
- Group therapy
We discuss these in more detail on our Anxiety Treatment page.
Medications generally prescribed for anxiety include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), sleeping tablets, tranquillisers and sedatives (including Benzodiazepines). While SSRI’s may be longer-term medications, sleeping tablets and tranquilliser type medication is usually considered as a short term only solution to moderate to severe anxiety due to the addictive nature of them and the possible side effects. Please see our Anxiety Treatment page for more information.
There are lots of ways you can help yourself reduce your anxiety. These can include:
- Learning to control symptoms
- Breathing exercises
- Distraction techniques (for more see No More Panic)
- Assertiveness training
- Healthy Lifestyle (eating and sleeping well are very important)
- Communicating your problems
Please see our page on No More Panic for some great pro-active hints, tips and expert advice.
Friends and family support
Friends and family of sufferers often feel powerless, but there is a lot we can do to support someone with anxiety. We can givehelp, support and encouragement, we can remind our loved one of their positives as often anxiety knocks self-esteem and confidence.
Listen and allow emotion – whether it is anger, fear or sadness, allowing someone to express these emotions can help them to come to terms with them.
Hobbies and distractions, it can be great for someone dealing with anxiety to learn distraction techniques which allow them to focus on something other than anxiety. You can encourage this by perhaps going to a relaxation class with them (or just listen to a CD together), you could take up a craft or something that can be done together and used to help take someone’s mind off anxiety and help soothe them at stressful times. A hug can be great, closeness can help someone who is anxious, however listen to them, if someone needs space, just reassure him or her this is OK too.
SANEline is open every day of the year from 6pm to 11pm
0845 767 8000
Anxiety, further help
We hope you have found this information useful, please also see
What Is Anxiety
Fight or Flight Response
Coping with Anxiety
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
No More Panic
Anxiety and Debt
Anxiety as a Result of Domestic Abuse
Work Related Stress
Anxiety and Substance Abuse