The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness is anxiety. This is one of the UK’s most diagnosed mental disorders with nearly eight million people experiencing levels of anxiety which would constitute a diagnosis at any given time (Mental Health UK).

At this point, it is important to recognise that everybody experiences anxiety. It’s a natural response which is useful in many ways as it can give you the strength and stamina to escape some quite dangerous experiences. Once your brain recognises a threat, it releases adrenaline into your bloodstream making you hyper focused. Your heart pumps faster to feed your muscles with oxygen which in turn allows you to run (among many other physiological actions!).

An anxiety disorder differs from normal anxiety in the following ways:

  • It is more severe
  • It is long lasting
  • It interferes with the persons work and/or relationships

There are three main effects when somebody lives with anxiety. They are…

  1. Physical;
  2. Psychological; and
  3. Behavioural.

The effects of anxiety can be very physical, felt in the body and mimic fear. People generally do not like the feeling and so stop doing the thing that causes it. This can lead to avoidance which is confirmation to the brain that the fear is justified! This sets up a vicious cycle of behavior which can be difficult to stop.

Some of the conditions that are diagnosed are:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder – GAD
  • Panic Disorder – Panic Attack
  • Phobias
  • Acute stress disorder (ASD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

It is important to note that many people with anxiety problems don’t fit neatly into a specific type of disorder. There can be crossover into many different types.

A high level of anxiety can often lead to depression and long periods of depression can also bring about feelings of anxiety hence the term mixed.

People who live with anxiety often feel hopeless or helpless due to their condition but help is available. Firstly, accepting that things can be different, and that recovery is possible is key. Secondly, knowing where to get that support is crucial. Friends and family can be helpful, and the internet is also quite useful, if you don’t use it for diagnostic purposes! Those with Health Anxiety do this to try and seek reassurance which doesn’t work in the long run!

Useful treatments are:

  • CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Anti-depressants (SSRI’s)
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Breathing practices

Be aware, however that there are different severities of anxiety and therefore when somebody is experiencing panic or prolonged anxiety with marked physical symptoms, breathing and mindfulness practices may not be very helpful.

Follow the links below for more information about anxiety:

Remember recovery is not only possible but it is likely. It is important to be kind to yourself and set realistic expectations and goals.

One day at a time.