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Does Anxiety Rule Your Life?

Anxiety is about threat and danger (either real or imagined), where the fear that you feel is out of proportion to the actual threat itself.

We have all experienced a situation that evoked feelings of anxiety or panic because anxiety is a natural biological human response to a threatening situation. However, when anxiety is constant or overwhelming and it interferes with your daily life, it stops being functional; that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal, productive anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.

Because anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense panic attacks at the thought of going to a party, whilst someone else may be debilitated with fear by thought of travelling on a train. Others may suffer from uncontrollable or intrusive thoughts, whilst another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when anxiety is becoming a problem for you. You might find that you’re worrying all the time, perhaps about things that are a regular part of everyday life, or about things that aren’t even likely to happen. Sometimes people worry about worrying or are anxious about feeling anxious.

Anxiety is often accompanied by symptoms such as – A sense of dread. Shortness of breath. Difficulty concentrating. Feeling tense and jumpy. Anticipating the worst. Irritability. Restlessness. Headaches. Feeling like your mind’s gone blank. Palpitations.  Difficulty sleeping. Drowsiness & tiredness.

There are six major types of anxiety disorders:

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) - characterised by constant and excessive fear and worries or a persistent feeling that something bad is going to happen. People with GAD often feel anxious nearly all of the time, although they may not even know why.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - categorised as unwanted thoughts or behaviours that seem impossible to stop or control.  Recurring worries such as thinking that you forgot to turn off the iron, continually checking that doors are locked or disturbing images in your mind. You may also suffer from uncontrollable compulsions, such as washing your hands over and over again.

Social Anxiety - Social anxiety disorder is a persistent and overwhelming fear of social situations and is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and as a result, leads to avoidance.

Phobias – A phobia is an unrealistic or irrational fear of a specific object, activity, in a situation that in reality presents little to no danger.  Common phobias include a fear of animals (particularly spiders and snakes) a fear of heights, flying and being trapped. Most phobia sufferers go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing the fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.

Panic attacks (Panic disorder) a panic disorder is characterised by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as a fear of experiencing another episode. A panic disorder may also be accompanied by agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in places where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event. You are likely to experience flashbacks and have dreams about the event, and these are likely to trigger strong anxiety and feelings you experienced during the actual event.

How can counselling help?

Anxiety is not something biological that we inherit and it’s not a force external to us. Anxiety is something we cause ourselves.  Unhealthy beliefs, thoughts, actions and behaviours lie at the root of anxiety and it these underlying factors that cause anxiety. Counselling will help you identify and address these underlying factors.

Counselling for anxiety is highly effective in helping you explore both the root cause, and the factors that are maintaining your anxiety, along with helping you rationalise your unhealthy beliefs. Help will continue outside of the counselling room by putting practical measures in place in order for you to manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviours ongoing.

Further reading on anxiety management and self help

Making Friends with Anxiety’ A warm, supportive little book to help ease worry and panic - by Sarah Rayner (2014)
'Free Yourself from Anxiety’ A Self Help Guide to Overcoming Anxiety Disorders' by Emma Fletcher and Martha Langley (2009)
'Overcoming Anxiety’ - A Self-Help Guide' by Helen Kennerley (1997)

Charity Helpline

Anxiety UK - Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families.
Helpline - 08444 775 774*


What to Expect from Counselling