What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety (or worry) is a normal reaction to a stressful situation or a perceived threat. A certain amount of anxiety can be useful as it serves to protect us from dangerous or unfavourable situations. However, excessive or misplaced anxiety can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life. Sufferers may be so overwhelmed with worry that their ability to undertake everyday tasks becomes impaired. Excessive anxiety may cause a person to avoid certain situations causing the sufferer to miss out on work, school or social activities. Consequently, sufferers may become withdrawn or depressed, perhaps feeling a sense of underachievement or loneliness.
What Causes Anxiety?
The causes will differ from person to person, but the roots are often found in childhood. Research indicates that people with a family history of anxiety are more likely to experience it themselves. This could be down to genetics, but could also be ‘learned behaviour’ (albeit subconscious). Alternatively, researchers have identified that some people have an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings and physical reactions.
Of course, the other major factor affecting levels of anxiety is life experience. Traumatic experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood can all have profound effects on our ability to cope with situations that bring about similar feelings (consciously or subconsciously).
Early traumatic experiences can reset the body’s normal fear-processing system so that it is hyper-reactive to stress. These significant experiences may have occurred so early in life that a person has no conscious memory of them at all. Alternatively, some people may develop difficulties with anxiety much later in life due to witnessing or experiencing particularly traumatic events. Traumatic experiences may include domestic violence, neglect or abuse, sexual violence, separation or divorce, bullying, the death of a loved one, the effects of conflict/war, accidents at work, road traffic accidents, illness, dog attack etc.
Types of Anxiety Difficulties
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Non-specific worries and fears can be constant, and this can impair a person’s ability to function or relax. A person with this condition may commonly jump to worst-case scenario conclusions when encountering uncertain situations or ambiguous information. Although this does not result in panic attacks, the effects are long-lasting (chronic) and can make normal life extremely difficult. Nervousness or tension can make sleeping difficult, and fatigue is common. Other symptoms might include headaches, muscle tension and stomach cramps.
Panic Attacks: These are severe episodes of anxiety that usually occur in response to specific situations. Panic attacks occur when a person becomes so completely overwhelmed with anxiety that the brain cannot conceive of a rational coping strategy. This can be completely debilitating and potentially harmful.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Compulsions to carry out specific behaviours (hand-washing, obsessive tidying, compulsive routines etc.) can have serious implications for everyday functioning.
Anxiety often co-occurs with depression, and each has the capacity to make the other worse.
A number of therapies can be effective in reducing anxiety. The type of therapy offered will depend on the nature and origins of the anxiety. Therapeutic approaches include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Attachment Focused Therapy (AFT), Creative Therapies (and a number of other therapies). We offer therapy to both adults and children. An initial consultation will be required to discuss the most appropriate form(s) of therapy for each individual.
Please contact us for further information.