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Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions. Anxiety differs from regular feelings of nervousness to mild unease it can be much more extreme. According to Mind, the Mental Health Charity, Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.

Untreated Anxiety can push people into avoiding situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Sufferers may experience Depression, some may abuse alcohol and other drugs in an effort to gain relief from their symptoms. Mental Health at Work and school can be affected, while our health and personal relationships can also be impacted.

What are the symptoms of Anxiety?

For people with Anxiety, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, it can be crippling. There are several recognised symptoms of Anxiety disorders, including:

  • Overwhelming feelings of panic and fear.
  • Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts.
  • Painful, intrusive memories.
  • Re-occurring nightmares.
  • Regularly feeling worried or tense.
  • Affects on your work, health and relationships.
  • Fearing that something bad will happen if you don’t do things a certain way.
  • Avoiding everyday situations because you feel anxious.
  • Obsessing over things.
  • Physical symptoms such as feeling sick, "butterflies" in your stomach, heart pounding, startling easily and muscle tension.


Anxiety can also be like:

  • Feeling guilty for things that aren't your fault.
  • Criticising yourself for small mistakes.
  • Thinking you'll "fail" in something before you've tried.
  • Seeing more "threats" to your well-being than "opportunities" for you to succeed.
  • Downplaying and minimising your achievements.
  • Believing you're a burden.
  • Feeling like you constantly have to prove yourself.
  • Seeking "safety" more than "growth."
  • Thinking your dreams and goals are "stupid" and impossible. You don't believe you're worthy of them.
  • Being unable to sleep without the TV or lights on.
  • Feeling like you have nothing to contribute to a group conversation.
  • Giving a lot of attention to your imperfections or flaws and very little to your strengths.


Another major symptom of Anxiety is overthinking, this may include:

  • Ruminating about the past
    Constantly going over an event in the past that hurt you can leave you feeling discomfort and unease, for example, replaying a traumatic event or shaming yourself for a mistake you made.
  • Worrying about the future
    Processing the "worst-case scenarios" and the "what ifs" of something potentially distressing in the future, for example, financial struggles or having to do a presentation at work.
  • Panic about social and world issues
    Worrying about the outcome behind certain societal concerns, for example, a pandemic,, global warming or threat of war or natural disasters etc.
  • Worthlessness
    Being "stuck" in a negative thought loop about yourself for example, "I'm such a burden", "l hate my body" or "I'll never get the grades I want."
  • Mental chatter
    Generalised thoughts in the background that are passive in nature but distract you from being present in the moment.
  • Mind reading
    Overthinking how others are perceiving something for example, how they view you, whether they're still judging you for something you did in the past, whether they notice an imperfection you are trying to hide.
  • Indecisiveness
    Overthinking the outcome of a relatively "small" decision for example, what to wear or which soap you should buy.
  • Over-analysing things
    Analysing something that objectively doesn't justify much consideration, for example, fixating on the meaning behind a surface level comment for days after it's said.
  • Being "stuck" in thought
    Having a repetitive negative thought about a circumstance for example, "l can't do this", "there's no point in trying" or "things will never get better."


Anxiety is so much more than just "feeling nervous and being unable to relax". It's a mental health illness that can impact many aspects of our everyday lives. It can be:

  • Not replying to messages for days.
  • Getting overstimulated in busy environments.
  • Being unable to sleep.
  • Being scared to leave the house.
  • Being fearful of speaking to customer service on the phone.
  • Not attending family functions.


With Anxiety you may find that you might need to:

  • Cancel a plan.
  • Enforce a healthy boundary.
  • Change your mind.
  • Take time to rest.
  • Take prescribed medicine.
  • Ask for help.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are many types of Anxiety disorders which include Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety, specific phobias, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions and the rituals are called compulsions. An example is a person with a fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands. When you have OCD, you may feel a lack of control over thoughts like they're flooding your consciousness. You may act out compulsions or rituals to relieve the inner tension and distress that also aim to provide some separation from your thoughts. You may even feel a sense of shame around these thoughts or compulsions. Having the compulsions and thoughts significantly interferes with day-to-day functioning, relationships and ambitions.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts, memories or nightmares about the event and tend to be emotionally numb. PTSD may involve reliving an extremely distressing event, avoiding situations or anything that is linked to the traumatic event, feeling overly alert or looking out for "warning signs" of danger, feeling numb and disconnected from your "old self", experiencing concentration difficulties and feeling "stuck in your head."
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Also called Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centres on a fear of being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment and lead to ridicule. You may also feel on "on edge" in busy or social environments or find that you second-guess your mannerisms - what you say and who you are in a social setting. You may worry what others think of you and rehearse what you say, playing out scenarios before meeting others, playing back interactions long after they happened - shaming yourself for any mistakes and holding back your true self in a social setting and focus on others accepting you.
  • Specific Phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as certain animals, heights or flying etc. The level of fear usually is inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the Anxiety. It can feel like being "on edge" constantly, lacking a sense of "safety" regardless of what environment you're in. With GAD it can be hard to "switch off”, it's like being unsure of yourself and your surroundings, feeling "triggered" by a variety of things that may appear unrelated and struggling to feel "in control" in general.
  • Panic Disorder: People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. They may be having recurring and unexpected panic attacks, often appearing without an easily identified trigger, they might fixate on not having a panic attack and avoid any behaviours or environments that they perceive to be linked to prior panic attacks.

Panic Attacks

A common type of Anxiety disorder is a panic disorder. The core symptom of panic disorder is commonly known as a Panic Attack. This is an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress. Experiencing a Panic Attack is said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person's life.
 
During a Panic Attack several of these symptoms occur in combination:
    • Pounding heart or chest pain.
    • Sweating, trembling, shaking.
    • Shortness of breath, a sensation of choking.
    • Nausea or abdominal pain.
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
    • Feeling unreal or disconnected.
    • Fear of losing control or dying.
    • Numbness.
    • Chills or hot flashes.

Because symptoms are so severe, many people with panic disorder who experience Panic Attacks believe that they're having a heart attack or life-threatening illness. Professor Paul Salkovskis,  Clinical Psychology Doctorate Program Director at The University of Bath and the NHS share ways to Prevent Panic Attacks.

4 Tips to help someone with Anxiety:

1. Don't guilt-trip
There may be times when you have plans to go out but they cancel last minute. They could already feel horrible about it but their symptoms have just set in, at that moment, they need to cope with them or may want to protect you from them.
2. Don't take it personally
There are many physical symptoms of Anxiety that contribute to one being on edge or having outbursts. There may be times when they "snap" at you or appear irritable.  They could be trying to contain their emotions but sometimes they spill out.
3. Understand
There may be times where you wish they could just "let go" and be in the moment. Often their biggest fear is losing control of a situation, their surroundings or their actions.
4. Listen
There may be times when you want to give advice and suggest "yoga" or "meditation". Please know that anxiety is much more complex than managing day-to-day stress. It's a real illness that is unique to everyone. Just listening and being attentive to their needs can be of help.
 
Relief from Anxiety

You may believe that being free of Anxiety is a wonderful idea that's just too good to be true. Whether you've lived a lifetime feeling anxious and scared or you have sudden Panic Attacks, the thought of being free of Anxiety is like a dream that's dangling in front of you, but always just out of your reach.

Getting relief from your Anxiety will take some time and effort on your part. You will have to do some soul searching and some house cleaning with the negative experiences of your life. Anxiety is an underlying fear of the future, a state of worry, a feeling of being vulnerable, out of control and expecting the future to be like the past.

Counselling and Psychotherapy is a very effective means of support for Anxiety Disorders.
A Counsellor can help you to identify what is a real threat in your life and way of thinking and what isn't. Counselling will allow you to discover that the situation/problem in your life may not be the major cause of your anxiety, instead, it can often be how you react to the problem that is the bigger issue.

Counselling can help you regain control, this will assist you with managing your reactions, thus reducing anxious feelings. You will be able to control your fear, instead of your fear controlling you. When you work on releasing your anxiety issues, you will discover that you do have the power to make your life what you want it to be! 

To learn more about Anxiety, contact us to request your free Ebook. You may be in need of support on your journey, we have experienced Counsellors that are ready to help. Therapy sessions are available via Telephone, Skype or Whatsapp Calling, Instant Messenger and Email. We look forward to hearing from you.