- What is anxiety?
- What causes anxiety?
- How to know if you have anxiety?
- How to stop anxiety
- Overcome Anxiety at Therapy For You
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We all experience feelings of anxiety at different points in our lives, whether it’s worrying about an upcoming exam, preparing for a job interview or taking part in a competitive sport.
However, for some people anxiety doesn’t come and go with the situation – it is a constant presence that impacts daily life, affecting their physical and mental well-being.
If this is a situation you find yourself in, our anxiety management courses help you develop ways to understand the causes of your anxiety and develop techniques to deal with this condition. With the support of our qualified therapists, our anxiety courses support your journey to reducing worry day-to-day.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as fear or worry, that occurs when we feel under threat or concerned.
The meaning of anxiety extends back to our evolution in caveman days, notably the ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response. In order to protect ourselves from danger, our bodies developed to react quickly to perceived threats, helping us to:
This is an automatic response and, as mentioned previously, most people experience feelings of anxiety when coping with stressful events or situations. Sweating, increased heartbeat, tingling fingers – these are just some of the common responses people have to these situations.
Anxiety becomes an issue when these feelings of worry or unease present themselves in day-to-day life, not as a response to an immediate danger. Anxiety can make people imagine that their lives are worse than they truly are, and that they cannot face their fears or make any progress.
Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK – 7.8% of people meet the criteria for diagnosis of these conditions. In addition, approximately 13% of the adult population will develop a phobia at some point in their life. This shows that this condition is fairly common, and not receiving treatment for anxiety can have a negative impact on your physical or mental well-being.
Our anxiety management courses are geared to support those who experience anxiety on a regular basis, giving them guidance to overcome this condition and reduce its effects.
While anxiety will affect everyone at some point in their lives, when these feelings remain you might be diagnosed by your doctor with an anxiety disorder.
There are several forms of anxiety disorder. This page will mostly be dedicated to General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious across a wide range of issues or situations, rather than in response to a particular thing or scenario.
Those with GAD tend to feel anxious most days, and struggle to remember the last time they relaxed. If you feel this way, it is important to talk to your GP or speak to qualified therapists about taking a course on anxiety.
GAD is estimated to affect around 5% of the UK population, and is most common between the ages of 35 and 59. However, this is just a generalisation, and GAD can influence anyone at any age.
Other notable forms of anxiety disorder include:
These are just some of the most common forms of anxiety disorder. If any of these descriptions relate to your feelings, our online anxiety courses can be tailored to support your specific condition.
An anxiety attack or panic attack can be a particularly distressing experience, caused by a sudden rush of anxiety. This can be caused by an unexpected change, a situation that often causes you anxiety, or for no clear reason whatsoever.
Panic is the most severe form of anxiety, and experiencing an anxiety attack can lead people to avoid the situations that cause them even more ardently than normal. These events can become even more frightening if you don’t understand the symptoms, or misinterpret them for life-threatening conditions, such as heart attacks.
Symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
While most anxiety attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes, some have been reported to last up to an hour. In addition, the frequency of these depend on the severity of your condition – it could be once or twice a month to several times a week.
It is important to remember that, while anxiety attacks can be frightening, they don’t cause any physical harm.
If you’d like to learn more about the causes, symptoms of panic attacks and how to deal with them, visit our page on coping with panic attacks.
How to explain anxiety and what it feels like can be tricky, as it varies from person to person.
For some, anxiety presents as a feeling of dread, that the worst is going to happen in every situation. For others, it feels like your every action is being watched, and everyone is waiting for you to make a mistake. Some experience these in cycles or waves, others endure it consistently.
No matter how you experience anxiety, if these feelings are particularly strong, cause significant distress or have a notable impact on your day-to-day life, talk to your GP or speak to us about taking an anxiety management course.
The exact causes of GAD and other anxiety disorders are varied and not entirely understood (unless you have a phobia related to a specific thing or situation).
It is likely a variety of factors contribute to experiencing anxiety more frequently and/or stronger than normal, but it could also be the result of one traumatic situation.
Potential causes for anxiety include:
Determining the cause of your anxiety is one of the key aspects of reducing its hold on your life. Through anxiety management courses, your therapist will talk to you about the potential causes of your anxiety, developing techniques tailored to your specific situation.
In some cases, it can be difficult to distinguish anxiety with other mental health disorders, such as those relating to stress or depression. To tell if you have anxiety, ask yourself the following:
If you answer yes to some or all the above questions, it is highly recommended to pursue anxiety therapy or contact your GP for further guidance on GAD or other anxiety disorders.
Here are some of the common physical, mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety:
While these are the most common symptoms, anxiety affects people in different ways, so you may present with some of these indicators or most of them. If you recognise any of these symptoms, consider our courses to help with your anxiety.
The length of anxiety depends on the severity and specifics of your disorder. For instance, if you have a specific phobia, it is possible your heightened anxiety only occurs when you think about or experience the source of your phobia, and disappears afterwards. Equally, those with GAD and more varied anxiety disorders could endure these feelings every day until they receive treatment.
Anxiety also has a tendency to create a vicious cycle for people. Anxious people sometimes believe their anxiety acts as a protective function, and that excessive worrying helps them prepare for upcoming situations.
Another potential vicious cycle sufferers encounter is ‘worrying about worrying’, where someone begins to feel anxious about how much they’re worrying, or the symptoms this is causing. These scenarios can keep our anxiety going and extend its hold on our thoughts and emotions.
Regardless of whether your anxiety is occasional or persistent, if it is causing you significant distress and impacting your daily life, do seek help from your therapist, GP or another qualified professional.
Living with anxiety can be very difficult, and you likely want to get rid of these feelings as soon as possible. GAD is a long-term condition, but there are techniques and treatments that can greatly reduce the impact of this condition and help you overcome anxiety’s hold on your day-to-day life.
You may be able to deal with anxiety on your own through a range of self-help strategies, or you might benefit from dedicated treatments, from therapy and counselling to medication. Below, we outline ways you can help manage your anxiety and limit the significance it holds in your life.
There are numerous steps you can take yourself to reduce anxiety you face, whether your condition is constant or it’s in relation to specific situations.
There are several free online CBT courses for anxiety available (such as the service here at Therapy For You). These can help you challenge unhelpful thoughts linked to your anxiety at your own pace and improve your problem-solving skills.
There are also many workbooks online on how to manage anxiety and reduce its effects, helping you understand the reasons for your anxiety and suggesting practical steps to combat this. If you speak to your GP or therapist, they may also direct you to these to see if they help improve your mood over time.
It can be especially hard to stop worrying when suffering with anxiety. So, instead of trying to stop it completely, instead try to manage it. Dedicate a specific time of day to think through your worries at once, challenging the negative thoughts surrounding them. Then, list your worries down on paper along with any solutions you can come up with for them.
Once your ‘worry time’ is over, try to switch off as best as possible. This might be challenging at first, but with practice this should help train your mind to associate this time with worry, not a constant presence throughout the day.
Keeping a mood diary can help express and visualise your concerns on paper, as well as highlight how you feel day-to-day. What was my anxiety like compared to yesterday? What was better/worse about today? Noting this down can help you identify the causes and triggers of your anxiety, as well as highlight activities and people that relieve the strain it has on your life.
Anxious people often get into the habit of avoiding the things that cause them the most worry. This is understandable, but can reinforce negative thoughts/behaviours and prevent you from taking opportunities. Gradually exposing yourself to these situations teaches our minds and bodies we can cope with them, building our confidence for a range of scenarios.
Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can relieve anxiety and release tension from your mind and body. Exercise also encourages your body to release serotonin, a chemical that improves your mood. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week and this could improve your mood and overall well-being.
To some, relaxation comes naturally – others need to learn how to relax. It can be as simple as switching off your phone for an hour and listening to music, or active relaxation exercises like meditation, yoga or mindfulness. Developing your deep breathing is also beneficial, as this gets more oxygen to your body and helps you feel more in control of your anxiety.
Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine can make you more anxious, as it interrupts sleep and speeds up your heartrate. Tiredness makes it more difficult to manage anxiety, so reducing your intake of coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and energy drinks may help reduce anxiety levels.
Smoking and alcohol consumption have been shown to make anxiety worse. While some people use these to provide short-term relief for their anxiety, increased use can result in these symptoms getting worse.
By keeping these in moderation (or preferably stopping altogether), you take steps to combat anxiety and improve your general well-being.
While your natural inclination might be to hide your anxiety, sharing how you feel with someone you trust could be a powerful relief. In fact, hiding your anxiety could be a key contributor to making the condition worse. Whether it’s a family member, close friend or your GP/therapist, having someone to listen and care for your well-being can be a big positive reinforcement.
These are some of the self-help techniques you might consider to help deal with your anxiety. However, if these prove ineffective on their own, further treatments are available that can make a noticeable difference, from therapy and anxiety management courses to medication.
Supporting someone with anxiety can be a challenging situation, especially if you aren’t aware of the reasons behind it or you don’t consider yourself a worrier. Many will work hard to try and hide their symptoms from others, either to protect themselves or those around them. So, it’s important not to be too forceful with your support, but there are several ways you can let the person know you care.
Develop an understanding of what they’re anxious about and how it makes them feel. Remember, everyone experiences anxiety differently, so while it’s good to educate yourself on anxiety, it’s easier to empathise with your friend or loved one’s condition by discussing how they specifically feel.
Knowing that you’re there to support them through their experience could be a huge boost for your friend or family member. But, it’s important to follow-through with this by reassuring them during high levels of anxiety or practicing breathing exercises with them.
It’s important to be patient with those suffering with anxiety. While you might encourage them to face their fears and find practical solutions, pushing too much change at once can cause their anxiety to heighten and make them feel unable to cope. So stick to their pace and stay supportive.
If you’re concerned their level of anxiety is becoming too high or is damaging their daily life, you could encourage them to seek professional help. Whether this is helping them arrange meetings with their GP or a qualified therapist, or coming with them to appointments, this could be a valuable support.
While it’s fantastic to support a loved one with their anxiety, it’s important that this doesn’t impact your mental health as well. Set boundaries as to what you’ll do and when, talk to others about your own feelings and where possible try to share caring duties with others so the burden isn’t squarely on your shoulders.
If self-help techniques have not proven effective for one reason or another, there are a number of other treatments for anxiety you may consider. These can be effective no matter the specific anxiety disorder you have, whether it’s a phobia associated with a specific situation, or reducing the effects of a long-term condition like GAD.
Anxiety Therapy Courses
If you are diagnosed with GAD or another anxiety disorder, you will usually be advised to consider therapy before being prescribed medication. You don’t have to receive a referral from your GP to pursue this support, but this is an option if you prefer.
Therapy for anxiety can take several forms:
Your anxiety management course might take the form of guided self-help. Here, a professional therapist will provide a CBT-based workbook or online course to help you understand your anxiety and develop techniques to overcome it. As you work through the course at home, you might have regular appointments with your therapist to discuss your progress, your feelings and establish techniques dedicated to your situation.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
One of the most effective treatments for GAD and other anxiety disorders, CBT encourages you to challenge your negative and anxious thoughts, and visualise how these affect your behaviour. From this, you can develop coping techniques to overcome your anxiety. This often takes the form of several 1-to-1 sessions with a qualified therapist, but can also be conducted through online CBT anxiety courses.
Applied Relaxation Therapy
This treatment teaches you ways to relax your muscles in situations that cause you anxiety. Generally taught by a specially-trained therapist over the course of several months, applied relaxation helps you learn how to relax your muscles quickly or in response to trigger words, and practising these in response to moments of heightened anxiety.
Therapy For You can offer effective anxiety management courses that explore the roots of your anxiety and develop strategies to reduce its presence day-to-day.
However, should therapy prove ineffective, medication is also an option to treat anxiety.
Medication for anxiety disorders varies depending on the severity and regularity of your condition. Depending on your symptoms, you may need medication to treat both your psychological and physical responses, and take either short-term or long-term courses.
Make sure you speak to your GP about the various medications available based on the causes/symptoms of your situation. They will also offer guidance on the length this treatment will last, and possible side effects these can cause. You should also ensure you attend regular appointments with your GP to give updates on your condition and if you feel you require an adjustment to your type of medication or dosage.
Specialist Anxiety Treatments
If neither talking therapies nor medication help alleviate the symptoms of your anxiety disorder, your GP might refer you to a mental health specialist, most likely a member of your community mental health team (CMHT) also know as Recovery and Wellbeing Teams.
The specialists you talk to may include:
These individuals will reassess your condition, speak about the causes of your anxiety and devise a treatment plan to handle your symptoms.
Hopefully this page has given you a greater understanding of the causes and symptoms of anxiety, and the potential treatments available if this affects you.
Therapy For You can offer a range of interventions to help manage your problem. This starts with our online anxiety management courses, that help you determine the triggers of your anxiety or worry, and guide you on developing suitable coping mechanisms that eventually see you overcome your concerns.
To learn more about our online anxiety courses in Essex, get in touch to book a Telephone Assessment with one of our qualified therapists.
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