Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job interview.
Feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and often affect their daily life.
What type of anxiety disorders are there?
There are several types of anxiety and panic disorders, because people respond to anxiety and panic attacks in different ways. Some of the more common disorders are outlined below.
Counselling and EMDR Therapy
Many people come to therapy because they have tried to control their anxiety reactions but can’t seem to do it themselves. I take a good history of your life, what strengths you have, what distressing or traumatic events you have gone through, and we work together to help you regain control, order and normal predictability in your life. Usually people begin to understand that the thing they are anxious about it usually the last straw in years of worry, fear and uncertainty. By voicing these worries and fears or sharing a terrifying experience with someone who will really listen to them and help them work through the layers of fear, shame, guilt people find themselves set free to live the life they want to live.
Below is a listing of Anxiety Disorders. Many people steel themself up for years coping alone or making their family cope with unhealthy behaviour rather than get help and live more peacefully.
‘Life is Difficult’ wrote Scott Peck in the Road Less Traveled opening line. Children, Partners, Relatives, Friends and Colleagues all interrelate with us better if we are calm and peaceful. For yoursake and theirs, get help for your anxiety issues. Concern for your life is good and healthy, anxiety is unhealthy for you and others and wastes energy, yours and others.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
You may be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder if you have felt anxious for a long time and often feel fearful, but are not anxious about anything in particular. The strength of symptoms can vary.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour are typical for this disorder. You may have obsessive thoughts about being contaminated with germs or fear that you have forgotten to lock the door or turn off the oven. You may feel compelled to wash your hands, do things in a particular order or keep repeating what you are doing a certain number of times. Some OCD’s are around people thinking they are child abusers or that they fancy children when they clearly don’t. Others have religious beliefs that they are bad, guilty, sinners, etc and can never rectify this with God. THese are clearly distressing thoughts for people and take a lot of energy from them to cope with daily life.
Phobia is about irrational fear. If you have a phobia, your anxiety will be triggered by very specific situations or objects; such as spiders, heights, flying or crowded places, even when there is no danger to you. For example, you may know a spider isn’t poisonous or won’t bite you, but this still doesn’t reduce your anxiety. Likewise, you may know that it is safe to be out on a balcony in a high-rise block, yet, feel terrified to go out on it or even enjoy the view from behind the windows inside the building.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
If you have experienced or witnessed a very stressful or threatening event, e.g. war, serious accident, sudden or violent death, rape, you may later develop post-traumatic stress disorder. 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.
Panic attacks may sometimes occur for no reason, and you may not be able to understand why. You may feel as if your mind has gone totally out of control . When you experience panic attacks that seem completely unpredictable and you can’t identify what has triggered them, you may experience panic disorder. Because the onset of panic seems unpredictable, you may live in fear of having another panic attack. This fear can become so intense it can trigger another panic attack.
How can I learn to manage my anxiety myself?
There are many things you can do to reduce your anxiety to a more manageable level. Taking action may make you feel more anxious at first. Even thinking about anxiety can make it worse. Therefore, a common – and natural – response to anxiety is to avoid what triggers your fear. For example, if you are afraid of spiders, running away every time you see one, is likely to increase your fear. Avoiding an exam because you feel anxious is likely to make you feel worse. Therefore facing up to anxiety, and how it makes you feel, can be the first step in breaking the cycle of fear and insecurity.
At the onset of panic, I keep telling myself that I have been here before and that I get through it again. It will pass if I try to keep as calm as I can.
Controlling the symptoms
You may find that your symptoms can be controlled by breathing and relaxation techniques. Books and CDs on the topic are available both online and from bookstores to help you with this – also see Mind’s booklet How to manage stress for some exercises. Several self-help programmes on relaxation are available online, or you could attend a relaxation class. In some areas there are also classes in anxiety management.
Being assertive means you can stand up for yourself while also respecting other people and their opinions.
Learning how to handle difficult situations and to assert yourself can make you feel more confident and, therefore, more relaxed. Some people find that learning self-defence makes them feel safer. To find out about local classes, ask at your library or look on the internet.
I have found that activities that involve ‘putting myself out there’ – e.g. dance classes that involve having to perform on stage for an end of year show or exam – very helpful in developing confidence and assertiveness, especially as they make you stand up straight and ‘walk tall’ rather than ‘hide’.
A healthy lifestyle
Exercise uses up the adrenalin and other hormones that are produced under stress, allowing muscles to relax. It can therefore help you to cope with anxiety and feelings of tension, and may help you sleep better. Walking and swimming allow you to be active at your own pace and you can do them alone or in company.
Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep can also make a big difference to your ability to cope with stress (see How to manage stress). You may find it easier to relax if you avoid stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol.
Some simple things to add to your day are: Make time to eat 3 meals a day at regular times, take your lunch break, get regular exercise 5 x 30 minutes at one go over the week, plan regular holidays through out the year, have your young children take 30 minutes to 1 hour rests each day and put your feet up, read a book or nap. Meet with friends to talk and laugh, notice the beauty of nature and architecture around you, appreciate the good things that happen to you and others each day, enjoy comedy shows and radio programms, art, music and the people around you.
Square breathing is helpful to regulate your breathing and calm your mind down again so that it can think properly.
Here are 4 FUN clips on breathing. They are very easy to learn and work.
These graphics depict younger children, but we all have that ‘child’ within ourselves and our distressing triggers are usually laid down in the past.
Based on the Adaptive Information Processing model (AIP) (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/emdr/2008/00000002/00000004/art00009?crawler=true
ACE research https://socialworksynergy.org/2014/02/26/aces-adverse-childhood-experiences-basics/ Bruce Perry, ‘incomplete action’, positive psychology, psychoeducation and peer support, connectedness etc and the idea that ‘Its not what is wrong with you, but what has happened to you”.
First is “How to avoid becoming a Lizard” https://youtu.be/n1ooIOMoFts
– an idea to help with self-regulation and help with readiness to learn.
Teachers have used it for themselves (self-regulation when confronted with, and having to manage dysregulating children) and then used the ‘acb’ as a gesture to help dysregulating children remember that they can have some control over their own physiology (the gesture helps as when dysregulating, higher level functioning goes offline as well as language – hence the need to keep it very simple ).
We all may not have control over what has happened to us but can develop skills to help ourselves choose how to react to triggers. This needs practice, but if we can do it once (experience some regaining of control) we set up an alternative pathway in our brain that we can develop with practice, rather than a possible well-developed default of just switching off or reacting with anger. Children have also supported each other to use this as a strategy (children listen to children). The key is not that they all use acb, but realise that it is within their own control and power to have some control over their own thoughts / feelings and bodies. “I can….”
Second: is called ‘Belly Breathing’. https://youtu.be/mb0g-z9g8eQ
This is about a skill they can learn in conjunction with the above. Linked to Mindfulness but more significantly, the link to addressing repetitive, intrusive negative thoughts / cognitions. Usually self-defeating – (‘I can do this’ / ‘You are useless’ / ‘I have no control’ / ‘I am helpless’).
A negative cognition is usually related to:
Responsibility – guilt – self-esteem – effectiveness – In The Past
Safety/stabilisation – life danger – In Our Present.
Choice/Control – FFF can’t handle – In Our Future
All negative cognitions are – About me – illogical – generalizable – rooted in present – linked with image – generate emotion.
So the animations are about self-empowerment – and developing resilience. “I can…..”.
Useful to link it to developing small tests of change – monitoring the outcome and impact (PDSA cycle).
Third is: ACB breathing David Murray – EMDR Europe Consultant
Fourth: Finger Breathing
For Children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAt58vJLBsQ
For Adolescents & Adults: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLpim8_C-6U
Talking to a friend or family member about what’s making you anxious can help. You may find that they have encountered a similar problem and can talk you through it; however, just having had someone listen to you and showing that they care, can help in itself.
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