Anxiety

 

Understanding the causes of anxiety, and some self-help tips and advice in helping you overcome your own anxiety.

 


WHAT IS ANXIETY?


Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event, and is estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population. People with GAD feel anxious, restless or worried most days, they have trouble concentrating or sleeping, they often experience dizziness or heart palpitations, and as soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue. This often affects daily life, can cause distress and can often lead to depression.


The exact cause of GAD isn't fully understood, although research has suggested that these may include:

  • Overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour.
  • An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • Genes inherited from parents – you're estimated to be 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition.
  • Having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences.
  • How you have learned to cope with things.
  • Having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis.
  • Having a history of drug or alcohol misuse.


SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
 
Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Weakened or tense muscles.
  • Sweating.
  • Churning stomach or loose bowels.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feeling depressed.
  • Loss of self-confidence.

 
HELPING TO REDUCE ANXIETY YOURSELF
 
Firstly, try to realise what is causing you to feel anxious and then put them into three main categories; a) those with an immediate practical solution b) those that will take longer to get better and c) those you can’t do anything about. Once you have identified and categorised what is causing you to be anxious, you can then work at changing your lifestyle enabling you to lower your anxiety, for example: prioritising, eliminating, handing things over to other people, changing your mindset and beliefs about yourself and things.

 
There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as: 

  • Find someone you can talk to; talking about your anxiety helps you understand it, and therefore more able to control it.
  • Working through an anxiety reduction course either in your own time or with the support of a counsellor or therapist. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness are some of the most effective treatments for GAD. Studies of different treatments for GAD have found that the benefits of CBT and Mindfulness may last longer than those of medication, but no single treatment works for everyone.
  • Read books on reducing anxiety.
  • Join a therapy or support group where other people with similar problems meet regularly to learn ways to tackle anxiety.
  • Exercise regularly - integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving anxiety.
  • Be mindful - mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences and involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in order to better manage difficult and potentially situations that might make us anxious.
  • Cutting down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink – there is a great deal of evidence that shows that drinking alcohol and caffeine can significantly raise anxiety levels.
  • Stop or significantly reduce smoking - smoking has been shown to make anxiety worse.
  • Applying relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation - focusing on relaxing your mind and your muscles, especially in situations that make you anxious.
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© Robin Barratt