Anxiety is characterised by feelings of uneasiness and heightened worry. It can niggle at the edges of your mind, sometimes flooding in to overwhelm your senses with intense dread, fear or panic. Whenever you’re being threatened – or feeling pressured or vulnerable – anxiety is a completely normal response to stress.
Often your body and mind will respond automatically to a challenging situation – your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, and your sympathetic nervous system releases a surge of stress hormones. Also known as the ‘fight, freeze or flight’ response, anxiety is a red flag that something is amiss. Once the stressful situation has passed, physical symptoms of anxiety usually subside.
Yet for many people, anxiety lingers on long past the time it’s needed. A prolonged bout of anxiety can seriously interfere with your ability to function in day-to-day life, and also take a toll on your relationships. Some people describe anxiety as being held hostage by your mind, like a prisoner in your own body. Counselling can help you to regain control by harnessing your body-mind inner calm, and confidently start living on your own terms again.
GENERALISED ANXIETY AND PANIC
Anxiety can be a general response to feeling stressed, or it can be triggered by specific situations or events. Catastrophic thinking frequently occurs with anxiety, leaving you feeling like something awful may happen, or anticipating the worst case scenario in any given situation. You may feel preoccupied with everyday matters such as finances, work or your relationships, and experience compulsive worry and tension.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety and panic:
- Muscle tension
- Easily startled
- Elevated breathing and heart rate
- Hot flushes and/or cold chills
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Sleep difficulties
- Excessive sweating
- Chest and abdominal pains
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
- Frequent feelings of tension and uneasiness
- Feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings
- Worrying about feeling anxious (rumination)
- Catastrophising about ‘what if’s’
- Issues with memory and concentration
- Dread and unease
- Unwanted, intrusive thoughts and images
- Fear of losing control, passing out or dying
Generalised anxiety consistently interferes with your mood and stress levels, triggering dramatic emotional highs and lows. Although it is common to feel tense or fearful from time to time, anxiety can result in these feelings occurring intensely, and over a substantial period of time. Sometimes it is difficult to explain the way you are feeling to others; anxiety often leads to social withdrawal and isolation if left untreated.
It is an extremely debilitating form of anxiety. The fear of doing something to embarrass or humiliate yourself in public or online can override your ability to enjoy life and your interactions with other people. Common social phobias include public speaking, performing, eating and drinking, using public restrooms, dating, and general social encounters.
SYMPTOMS OF SOCIAL ANXIETY INCLUDE:
- Hypervigilance: feeling nervous, constantly on high alert and unable to relax
- Quick to interpret and react to social stimuli, often using a negative lens
- Persistent worry about social interactions (eg conversations, meeting people, being in public).
- Avoidance of social situations (including time off work or school)
- Intense self-consciousness: highly self-critical
- Preoccupied with other people’s responses to you: heightened anxiety about being watched, judged or criticised by others
- Dislike and avoidance of communication with others (in person and online)
- Apprehension about physical proximity to others, avoiding eye contact
Counselling for social anxiety can be extremely effective in reducing feelings of self-consciousness, worry and tension. Avoiding social events and interactions with other people can take a serious toll on your wellbeing, and ability to function in daily life. Professional therapeutic support can help you recover from social anxiety and start living life to the fullest again.
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS
Anxiety often arises after traumatic events, such as experiencing a death, injury or abuse. Experiencing a traumatic event may lead to feelings of extreme fear or helplessness. Sometimes these feelings continue long after the traumatic event has passed. If everyday events start triggering unwanted flashbacks and involuntary stress responses, counselling is the recommended course of action to treat the symptoms of PTSD. Around 10% of people will experience PTSD at some point in their life, with an exceptional recovery rate of 95% amongst those who seek treatment.
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Increased, frequent stress arousal
- Hypervigilance: constantly on high alert
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disturbing thoughts and feelings
- Intrusive flashbacks and memories
- Sleep disturbance, including nightmares
- Exaggerated startle response
- Amnesia around the event