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Help for anxiety Hampshire, Chandlers Ford.

What is anxiety?

Sometimes we do not know it is anxiety, naturally much focus is on the symptoms, for example, difficulty sleeping, a dry mouth, nervousness or the fear of panicking and avoiding certain situations. We then learn that these symptoms can be labelled as anxiety and in medical terms they can be called anxiety disorders. To help understand more about anxiety we have provided descriptions about what anxiety is and the various types of anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal response, it is there as part of human evolution, to be able to deal with real danger appropriately and is something that everyone experiences at different times and with varying intensity. So anxiety is helpful when you can react to situations effectively. Anxiety becomes unhelpful when everyday or specific situations that are not a danger are evaluated consciously or subconsciously as a threat. This can lead to feelings of worry, nervousness and unease and you may know or may not know the reasons for feeling this way.

From knowledge, continual research and diagnosis, anxiety has been developed into various categories. Below are a number of these variations,  clicking on them will provide further information for you. In addition to the right there is a running list of the main types of anxiety symptoms that can be experienced and at varying degrees.

Main Types of anxiety

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can be described as persistent feelings of worry, or anxiousness and not knowing why or the specific reasons for having these particular feelings. GAD can feel like a constant state of dread and with little respite from the anxious state relaxation can feel almost impossible. This constant anxious state can be experienced for months and even years, and can be disruptive to relationships and employment, as the symptoms can be distracting from normal daily activities and enjoyment in life.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is also known as a Social phobia and reference to the NHS, social anxiety disorder is described as one of the most common of the anxiety disorders. Someone who suffers from this can feel anxious either when observed or when talking with other people. Certain social situations may also be avoided, for example, shopping, meeting new people. eating in front of others, because of the fear of being humiliated, or saying something stupid, insignificant or embarrassing and then being judged by others. Everyone can feel socially anxious at times and the difference with social anxiety disorder is that the distressing feelings and thoughts are persistent, and everyday situations are uncomfortable.

Take a free online Social Anxiety Test 

Health anxiety

Health anxiety can be described as a preoccupation or obsession with the idea or belief that you have or will have a physical illness. Sometimes harmless physical symptoms are perceived as serious medical conditions. Naturally with this particular anxiety, feeling anxious about an illness increases the anxiety further and in turn this reinforces the thought that the symptoms being experienced are part of the illness.

Anticipatory anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety appears as a state of waiting for something to happen, sometimes containing the ' What if ' question that usually contains a negative projection of a future outcome that is unknown. The constant state of worrying about what may happen about a future event, creates the anxious feelings, triggering the fight and flight response.

Situational anxiety

Situational anxiety relates to specific situations, events or places that trigger extreme anxiety or panic attacks, sometimes this can occur with major life changes, for example changing school or employment.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Anxiety and panic attacks can be experienced as an intense fear that something awful is about to happen and the symptoms can appear fairly rapidly, although they are usually brief, then can feel as though they last a long time. Panic attacks are also very common and many people experience them in their life, maybe only once, whilst others may experience panic more frequently. it is important to note that a panic attack is NOT a sign of serious mental illness. Certain situations, events or people may trigger a panic attack and at other times the triggers may not be recognisable.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Acute Stress Disorder can occur when anxiety and dissociative symptoms develop rapidly as a reaction to traumatic event, or an event that was perceived as extremely stressful. It is diagnosed when:

  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with (e.g., can include learning of) an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or other.
  • Though not required, the persons response is likely to involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has 3 or more of the following dissociative symptoms:

  • A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness.
  • A reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g.," being is a daze")
  • De realisation (where the external world feels a bit un-real and distant)
  • Dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of trauma)

The disturbance of an acute stress disorder must last for a minimum of 3 days and a maximum of 4 weeks, and must occur within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur immediately after someone has experienced a terrifying experience or months and years after the event. It is normal to experience confusion and distress after a traumatic event and sometimes the symptoms pass on their own. It is when symptoms persist that they can become troublesome.

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • Serious road accidents
  • Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • Witnessing violent deaths
  • Military combat
  • Being held hostage
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can also be experienced as a reliving of the events, including flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of guilt, isolation and outbursts of anger and irritability.

Anxiety and the relationship with depression

There is quite often a belief I hear that low energy states are related to depression, and anxiety is considered to be a high energy state.

Well, this is not always the case and as professional therapists we know how important it is to understand the relationship between anxiety and depression, to introduce the appropriate interventions and be aware of client safety. People suffering from depression, can also be suffering from anxiety at the same time and vice versa. There is no order of preference of the two.

Anxiety can be a negative experience because of the daily disturbances that take place, or the sudden impact of fear or terror about to occur, likened to a panic attack or flashback. It can be disruptive to your future goals and plans. By responding to anxiety with excessive worry or hopelessness of not being able to achieve, maybe some daily tasks, or difficulty in maintaining relationships. These are factors towards increasing the risk of depressive symptoms. Both anxiety and depression exhibit disturbances in positive emotional regulation (Jenna et al. 2014).

Following some recent research by Bird et al. (2013), they discussed and provided examples of the core processes that may underpin the relationship between anxiety and depression. As you read the core processes below, please relate them to your experiences and see if they hold any meaning for you.

  • Dysfunctional emotional regulation (Wells and Mathews 1994).
  • Self-absorption, focussed on self (Ingam 1990).
  • Repetitive negative thinking (Ehring and Watkins 2008).
  • Self attacking thoughts (Gilbert and Irons 2004).
  • Avoidance behaviours (Hayes et al. 1996).

It could be from reading all this information and the signs and symptoms of anxiety that you are beginning to notice particular patterns, it is also OK if you are not aware of any patterns forming and are just aware of any disturbing or disruptive experiences.

In either case if you are experiencing any of the above or are worried about your psychological health and personal safety, please always consult with with GP first and you can contact the London Anxiety Clinic for a free 30 minute telephone consultation.

There also also a number of support lines available :

NHS Emergences for urgent help and attention. Call the emergency number of 999. An operator will answer.

For non urgent enquiries,or advice and health, the NHS out of hours service  can be called on 111.

For people that are experiencing severe distress, or suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans operate a confidential helpline 24 hours each day. They can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90.