Anxiety – Emma Murray


What is anxiety?

Anxiety is sometimes described as ‘over-worrying’or ‘over-thinking’. It can be a feeling of not being in control. Anxiety can be extremely distressing and have a serious impact on mood, sleep, appetite and concentration. Struggling with anxiety over a long period of time may cause people to feel hopeless.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety affects people physically. When anxiety is triggered surges of adrenaline, which feel like sudden charges of jittery energy that are sent through the body. These can make us feel shaky and ill. Panic attacks are a very acute form of anxiety. They manifest in a range of physical symptoms, which can include:
– heart palpitations
– shallow breathing
– nausea
– sweating
– the need to go to the bathroom
Although, panic attacks are generally time-limited they can be extremely frightening and are at times debilitating.

Whilst distressing, the physical symptoms of anxiety can offer a useful way into beginning to understand it. Anxiety is part of our survival system, triggered in times of ‘threat’ to help us survive. When faced with a life-threatening situation the rush of adrenaline prepares us, giving us a surge of extra energy to fight or run from danger. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Of course, we are far less likely to meet a bear or tiger than our ancestors were. However, as society has grown more complex, so too have those elements and situations that feel threatening.

Unpicking the workings of our anxieties can be difficult. One reason for this is that the causes and experiences of anxiety are different for everyone. So there is not one straight forward explanation. Sometimes our anxiety is easy to identify. We know where it comes from, and why the situation feels stressful. Other times, the ‘threat’ we are reacting to is not clear. We feel the affects of our internal alarm system, designed to help us survive, being triggered. Even when what has triggered the response seems to be a situation we think ‘shouldn’t’ really worry us. Just like a smoke alarm triggered by overdone toast.

How talking therapy can help

Counselling and psychotherapy offers a space to explore how and why our anxiety happens. Therapy can also be a place to think about routes towards managing and coping with the symptoms of anxiety.

The process of slowing down and deconstructing anxiety can help people find different ways to think about it. In doing so therapy may ‘reframes’ worries. Therapy helps by providing a space to think about valuable coping techniques for moments of panic. As well as ways to manage intrusive thoughts. Thinking about the ways our bodies react to anxiety also offer opportunities to help ourselves. For example, learning to ‘self-soothe’ and calm ourselves.

Psychotherapy and counselling offers a space to explore anxiety in the wider context of our lives. A growing body of research supports the link between anxiety and childhood experiences. Therapy is a space to consider the impact of past experiences. As well as exploring our ways of relating to others. At the same time developing insight into why we tend toward anxiety. Talking therapy helps us put ourselves and our anxious behaviours in context. In this light we can create room for self-compassion.

More information

For more information about anxiety and getting support for anxiety please check out the links below:
https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/#.W_gpH62cZAY
https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health/anxiety
People struggling with anxiety are not alone. Many people experience anxiety and find support and ways to help themselves.