We believe that it’s incredibly important to talk about anxiety, because it is one of the most common things that people are currently seeking treatment for, especially at our clinic.
Some of the sufferers that we have worked with had been given an official diagnosis of ‘anxiety’ from a healthcare professional but many were self-diagnosed. All talked about their anxiety as something that they were plagued with on a daily basis and something that caused huge disruption to their everyday lives.
So, what is anxiety?
“Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now.” – Mental Health Foundation
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life and it can affect people in different ways at different times. There can be identifiable causes for anxiety – exam time at school/college/university, your driving test, changing jobs, moving house, going through a divorce, money worries, having a baby or when facing surgery, for example, or (and something we saw more commonly), as a result of unprocessed trauma. It is when the sense of fear and worry becomes more than just that, and turns into anxiety which interferes and impacts with daily life, that it becomes a serious mental illness.
The hard truth about anxiety…
When we first realise that we’re anxious, we set to work on trying to identify what might be causing us distress and worry, but the thing is, there is always something to worry about. In some ways, this method of seeking understanding is effective because we quickly identify something that is bothering us and then focus our attention on trying to resolve it. For example, if we realise that we are worried about getting somewhere on time, we spend time on planning our route, checking timetables and doing what we can to alleviate that distress and it works. Well, temporarily… We do find that we feel a little better once we’ve done this because we’ve taken control of our emotions and tried to find a solution to our distress, but the thing that no one tells you is that anxiety just exists. Anxiety will latch itself onto anything, so there will always be something for you to focus your attention on to justify its existence. That’s why many sufferers describe just feeling anxious a lot, without even necessarily having any specific significant thing to worry about; the anxiety sits within the body and feels impossible to shift.
When we are feeling anxious, we can often list symptoms that describe how we are feeling, with some of these including:
- Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Fast breathing (Hyperventilation)
- Tight chest/discomfort (restricted air flow)
- Weakened or tense muscles
- Churning feeling in your stomach/feeling nauseous
- Tension headaches
- Dizziness/feeling faint
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Difficulty swallowing/dry mouth
- Sleep disturbance/feeling fatigued
- Feeling irritable and fatigued
- Feelings of panic
- Grinding/clenching your teeth
- Frequent urination
- Thinking the worst
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Feeling you are “going crazy”
- Feeling tense and nervous (unable to relax)
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Thinking you might actually die
- Thinking you are losing control or have lost touch with reality
- Feeling detached from your mind and body
- Feeling that people are looking, laughing and judging you
- Feeling you want to run away
- Feeling depressed (including hopelessness, not wanting to eat, lethargy)
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of self-confidence
- Avoidance, social withdrawal and isolation (staying at home and avoiding going out as much as possible)
- Difficulty in performing normal activities of daily life
- Self-destructive “nervous” habits (nail biting, skin picking, pulling your hair out)
- Comfort eating
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs excessively
- For those with an eating disorder: frequently weighing themselves, exercising to excess and checking their appearance in mirrors or under-checking and avoiding mirrors
- Restlessness or fidgeting
But did you know that so often what we perceive as anxiety, is actually fear?
If we have experienced trauma (which we believe is responsible for 90% of mental health problems faced today), then quite often we can find ourselves stuck in a fear cycle of flight, fight or freeze and so many of the symptoms of living in these states are similar to how we would describe anxiety. Compassion and kindness are so often the key to resolving or healing most conflicts, both within ourselves and externally. The more that we focus our attention on nurturing a compassionate approach, the more that we aid our own healing.
Symptoms of anxiety aren’t something that are going to disappear overnight but with time and patience, we can learn to cultivate a more loving response to ourselves and this helps us to heal. Professional help – whether that’s cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, prescribed medication or other forms of therapy – is vital, alongside self-help (such as journalling, communicating with your support network, resourcing yourself with books and podcasts from specialists, learning relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and aromatherapy).
Remember, you do not need an official diagnosis to seek support, you can just intuitively know that something isn’t right. If this sounds like you, contact us today via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0845 603 6530 to speak to our amazing advice team.