What is anxiety?

Anxiety is normal and it is something that everyone experiences at times throughout their life. Feeling worried about sitting an exam, going to the doctor’s or attending a job interview is perfectly normal but once the event is over the anxiety should disappear.  Things like difficult family situations, employment or money difficulties can cause longer-lasting anxiety; here again, these worrying times are quite often temporary and resolved when the underlying issues are addressed.

Unfortunately, other kinds of anxiety can be more persistent, and for many, this can be so overwhelming that it makes everyday life difficult to manage. No one is immune from anxiety, although it can affect us all in different ways. Everyone will feel anxious about something at some time in their life, but it is not something you have to live with indefinitely or for every moment of every day. Anxiety can be something that occurs as a one-off episode but can also be something that persists for a longer period. For many it can be completely overwhelming, making it difficult to manage everyday life. Many sufferers can inflate and exaggerate situations that others consider normal events. For example, a person with claustrophobia may become anxious at the thought of leaving their home, as the idea of being in a car, a toilet cubicle or even a shop where the exits are unknown can be a terrifying prospect.

Where does anxiety come from?

That is a lot of truth in the statement ‘fear of the unknown’, and so to lessen the fear and uncertainty associated with anxiety, we will share with you the basic information to put you in an informed position of power. You absolutely can get better, and understanding is a key component to start you on that journey.

The experience of anxiety can be very distressing. However, it is essential to remember that anxiety in context is entirely normal. The problem begins when anxiety is out of context. The ability to create anxiety is something that has existed in humans since cavemen times. It was an essential and often life-saving mechanism designed to protect us from dangers such as ferocious wild animals. Simply put, it’s our evolutionary survival tool. The human protection system is commonly known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. We now live in a world where we are safe from ferocious animals and it’s rare to encounter actual physical danger. As a result, anxiety is triggered by situations that are emotionally challenging but not life-threatening. The fight or flight response is often being inappropriately activated during normal, everyday situations when facing issues such as work, money, family life and health, which demand our attention without necessarily requiring the fight-or-flight reaction.

Symptoms of anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety which are caused by the spike of the stress hormone, adrenaline, are varied and numerous, but most people will experience some of the following:

  • Increased heart rate or sense of heart palpitations
  • Over breathing (hyperventilating)
  • Shaking
  • Muscle tension
  • Tension and tightness, or sense of compression, in the chest
  • Feeling hot
  • Feeling sweaty and clammy
  • Heaviness or numbness in the arms and legs
  • Tingling sensation in the arms and legs
  • Numbness or tingling in the face
  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Need to use the toilet more often
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Hypervigilance
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Light-headedness

Reactions to anxiety

For those who suffer from anxiety with an identifiable cause, although still unpleasant, there is an element of reassurance in knowing what the reason or trigger is. Certain actions can then be taken to alleviate the anxiety, such as avoidance, counselling, therapy, medication, distraction or relaxation techniques. For those who are unaware of the cause or trigger, although the same solutions are available, the lack of a reason can magnify the situation and heighten the anxious feelings. 

Many people who suffer from anxiety become restricted and avoid social situations because they feel embarrassed or ashamed, and worried that perhaps they will faint, vomit or embarrass themselves. But there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Although it can feel like a very isolated and lonely state, the statistics on anxiety will help you realise that you are far from being alone.

According to The Journal of Psychopharmacology, In 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK, and it is estimated that a further 13% of the adult population will develop a specific form of anxiety known as a phobia at some point in their life.

With the right help and support, anyone can fully overcome an anxiety disorder. It is important to remember that anxiety is a normal emotion in certain circumstances and that we all face varying levels of anxiety throughout our lifetime. However, the following suggestions will offer some guidance for you to challenge and alleviate your anxiety:

Negative or traumatic past events often have the biggest impact on our feelings of anxiety. These may need to be addressed so you can positively condition them and move forward with a new perspective.  Writing a timeline could help you to identify the events and memories that need to be worked on. It can be helpful to remind yourself that the feelings of anxiety do not belong to you. When your fight or flight response is being stimulated, look around you and reassure yourself that there are no dangers. You might like to practice some Grounding Techniques to use at times like this. 

Living with anxiety can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…

Whatever you have been through, you are not broken and you can get better.

Trauma Research UK's Recovery Programme

Trauma Research UK’s recovery programme is designed to help you break the anxiety-inducing habits you might have been carrying around for years, and to help you create new ways of thinking that we are confident will transform your life for the better. We will share with you the techniques and tools needed to change things around so you can start to live the life you deserve. This programme has been designed to be simple, effective and most importantly life-changing. Find out more…