Anxiety, along with depression and addiction, is one of the most common symptoms in the UK, addiction often being a way to self-medicate feelings of anxiety and stress. According to statistics provided by the Counselling Directory around 10% of the population are suffering from anxiety. It is common for both anxiety and depression to be comorbid. A 2013 article in The Guardian suggests that up to a third of the population will experience an anxiety disorder or panic attacks at some point in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people!
If you’re suffering from anxiety you are certainly not alone! The problem with anxiety however is that you really do feel alone, and platitudes and statistics don’t help you get any desired relief! The pervasive nature of anxiety means that you dread the possibility of there being no end to it. Even worse, if you’ve experience a panic attack, you anticipate, and dread, the next.
As a former sufferer of anxiety myself allow me to reassure you that there is help available and that we can bring a definite end to the anxiety you've been experiencing. While anxiety can have many different causes, fortunately it is one of the symptoms that responds very well to treatment.
"While anxiety can have many different causes, fortunately it is one of the symptoms that responds very well to treatment. "
As a therapist who has successfully treated hundreds of anxiety sufferers I feel it’s important that we make a distinction. Often symptoms and problems are referred to as ‘disorders’ or ‘dysfunctions’ by the psychological professions. Personally I don’t believe these are helpful terms because they not only suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with you, they also have a sense of permanence about them.
In fact anxiety is your body’s healthy way of alerting you to the fact that there is something troubling you, that’s it. When we view the symptom of anxiety in this way we can suddenly see that far from being a 'disorder', we simply need to identify what is troubling you and resolve it.
Occasionally people have an idea about what's causing their anxiety and occasionally they don't. Interestingly, when we experience anxiety our mind goes frantically searching for the cause of our feelings and bodily sensations. A key role of the Neocortex - a part of the brain that deals with rational thought processes - is to make sense of what is happening both inside and outside of our bodies. Bizarrely, if it can’t find the cause of an event it will literally make one up: "It's because of..." By doing this you can avoid that particular issue and have a sense of control over your anxiety.
Often however, when people inadvertently make erroneous assumptions about the cause of their anxiety the can get caught in a vicious cycle. While they get temporary relief, the anxiety soon returns and their brain has to come up with a new additional culprit. Before too long they have a long list of things that are causing their anxiety and that they have to avoid, all of which causes, well, anxiety! When anxiety gets out of hand, more often than not unconscious factors are involved. Fortunately therapy can help to identify and resolve the causes of your anxiety.
We have a region of our brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala is our brain’s alarm system for danger. All incoming information (upward from the senses and downward from the cortex) passes through the amygdala where it is scanned for potentially threatening content. If the amygdala detects a threat of any kind it triggers a response in your nervous system preparing you for fight or flight. Anxiety is the experience of your body mobilising its energetic systems preparing you for fight or flight.
"Anxiety is the experience of your body mobilising its energetic systems preparing you for fight or flight."
This system works like an on and off switch. Once the problem has been dealt with, once it has been mastered, the system switches off and you return to rest and relaxation. In some cases, unless this feedback of mastery is attained the system stays on just in case. When the system is on, your senses are hyper-alert for potential dangers and you can find yourself stuck and an anxiety cycle. In other cases threat signals come from internal unconscious sources.
Anxiety is one of what I call the big five: anxiety, depression, obsessions, compulsions, and stress. Almost every single symptom therapists are consulted for is mix or offshoot of these five major symptoms. Anxiety is the basis for numerous symptoms and problems that individuals can experience. From OCD and phobias, to Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders. Untreated anxiety can deepen and shift into worsening symptoms and problems.
Rest assured however that both psychotherapy and hypnotherapy are highly effective at dealing with anxiety and fear. I invite you to explore my Sequential Psychotherapy website which has a useful video that explains how I work and how symptoms and problems can develop. I also warmly invite you to get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation and join me at The Bristol Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy Clinic or online via Skype for a friendly chat about what's been happening. A lovely young lady came to see me because anxiety and panic had virtually crippled her life. She had this to say:
Before going to see Sebastian I went to see various doctors and CBT therapists who offered a range of medication and trying to teach me how to 'get my problem under control'. I went to Sebastian expecting much of the same and found I had a completely different experience to any other therapy I'd had. Instead of leaving every therapy session having talked about a horrible past experience or how awful a panic attack feels, he help me to gain self-esteem and see that I was just as capable as everyone else. The whole experience was very positive and motivating.
E.M. - Anxiety & Panic Attacks