Anxiety and Stress

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal, if unpleasant, part of life, and it can affect us all in different ways and at different times. Whereas stress is something that will come and go as the external factor causing it (be it a work, relationship or money problems, etc.) comes and goes, anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to the sufferer.

Symptoms of Anxiety

People often experience physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they feel anxious or stressed.

Some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased muscle tension
  • “Jelly legs”
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Hyperventilation (over breathing)
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wanting to use the toilet more often
  • Feeling sick
  • Tight band across the chest area
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Choking sensations
  • Palpitations

Some of the most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are:

  • Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
  • Thinking that you might die
  • Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
  • Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety and concern that you may embarrass yourself
  • Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
  • Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
  • Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
  • Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you

The most common behavioural symptom (the things we do when we are anxious) is avoidance. Although avoiding an anxiety provoking situation produces immediate relief from the anxiety, it is only a short term solution. This means that whilst it may seem like avoiding is the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety often returns the next time that you face the situation and avoiding it will only psychologically reinforce the message that there is danger. The problem with avoidance is that you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation and what would happen is actually true.

Anxiety and Children/Teenagers

Anxiety is a condition that can affect anyone – it doesn’t distinguish between age, background or social group.  Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives.  Anxiety presents itself in many forms, such as social anxiety, shyness, bedwetting, thumb sucking, exam stress, episodes of panic, fears and phobias or for some people just a general underlying feeling of anxiety which limits them from living their life as they would like.

It is OK to talk about anxiety and it is better to get help sooner rather than later.  In fact, the sooner we meet, the faster we can get on with working together to help you live your life in the way you want.  There are many techniques available to help – do not suffer in silence.

Anxiety in young people is becoming more and more common these days, in fact:

1 in 10 young people experience a mental health disorder (Green et al 2005)

Increase in prevalence of mental health problems at 16-19 (Singleton et al 2001)

Over half of all mental ill health starts by age 14 and 75% develops by age 18 (Murphy and Fonagy 2012)

School learning, stress tolerance, confidence, motivation, personal relationships will be adversely affected (Layard 2008)

Untreated anxiety or depression can have a significant impact on employment, income and relationship stability in adult life (Goodman Joyce and Smith 2011; Green et al 2005)