Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety may build up over many years or occur quite suddenly. Anxiety symptoms can be present in various ways, often unrecognised or masked by normal ways of coping. Signs of anxiety include:
- Stress, worry, fear, or even dread
- Difficulty relaxing or winding down
- Sleep disturbance, headaches, indigestion, sexual problems
- Frustration, restlessness, impatience, neediness or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating or mentally blank
- Nightmares, disturbing memories or flashbacks
- Racing mind, scary random thoughts
Learning new coping strategies and relaxation techniques is a good place to start, yet for many this does not go far enough. Therapy can help in many ways including:
- Professional assessment and support
- Somewhere you don’t have to pretend
- Explore stress patterns and triggers
- A reliable and secure place to be heard and understood
- Develop self-management skills, tools and techniques
- A place where you will be accepted as yourself
- Recover confidence, self-esteem and trust
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessions & compulsions are often a sign of underlying stress and anxiety. Many people will develop some obsessive or compulsive symptoms when life isn’t going so well (tidying, ordering, checking, cleaning, worrying etc). There symptoms are the body’s way of relieving tension and the mind’s way of gaining a sense of control.
Such symptoms can be a useful warning signal that life is out of balance and needs a bit of attention. These will normally respond well to general counselling or psychotherapy that address the underlying stress and anxiety. Often what is most useful is some help to reflect on where you have come from and where you are heading as well as how best to balance the many demands that life makes on us with our needs, hopes and fears.
For some others their symptoms seriously interfere with their ability to function. This may be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD an anxiety disorder which is thought to occur in approximately 2-3% of the general population. People suffering from OCD experience one or both of the following:
- Obsessive recurring persistent thoughts, images or impulses that cause marked anxiety or distress
- Behaviours or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform repeatedly to alleviate anxiety caused by obsessions
Common examples of obsessions are excessive worrying about causing harm to others physically or sexually, fears about security, hygiene, dreaded events occurring (i.e. house fires, car accidents), blasphemy, or sexual orientation. Common compulsions include checking behaviours, hoarding, hand washing, cleaning or tidying rituals, repetitively asking for reassurance, tapping objects, blinking rituals, excessive showering or teeth brushing, ordering, counting, praying, or repeating words. If sufferers have hygiene fears they may go to extraordinary lengths to avoid touching items they view as dirty or contaminated.
Most people who are afflicted with OCD are aware that their symptomatic thoughts and behaviours are ‘beyond the norm’ and get frustrated with their inability to control them. They may also suffer from a general low mood. The causes of OCD are not definitive but people who have personalities that like to be ordered and tidy and keep their emotions well under control are more vulnerable to developing the illness.
Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They can occur suddenly and without warning. At other times there are obvious triggers to a panic attack like giving a big speech or exposure to a social situation. During a panic attack the terror can be so severe that you feel like you could die, go crazy or totally lose control. The physical symptoms can be so frightening that many people think they are having a heart attack and seek medical help. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place or somewhere where you feel you can’t escape.
We all know what anxiety feels like. Our heart may pound before a big presentation or tough exam. Or we may get butterflies in our stomach fretting over a difficult conversation we need to have. It’s normal to worry and feel tense or scared when under pressure or facing a stressful situation. But when anxiety becomes overwhelming and turns into panic attacks it may interfere with your job, relationships and activities.
Benefits of Therapy
The good news is that panic attacks typically respond well to treatment. The treatment will need to be tailored to the type of panic attacks you have but will usually involve
- learning ways of managing the panic attacks
- learning relaxation techniques
- identifying and challenging negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs
- confronting your fears gradually in a safe and controlled manner
- making sense of the panic attacks in the context of your particular life history
Over time you will learn that the situations or emotions you have feared can be faced without harm and your anxiety will decrease. It is usually beneficial to also look at what underlying issues may be driving your panic attacks. This may involve looking in more detail at relationship patterns or uncovering difficult emotions and fears you may not have been aware of. Ultimately, good treatment will not only resolve your panic attacks but give you a greater sense of wellbeing, an increased knowledge of yourself and increased control over your life.
If you think you may be suffering from panic attacks or panic disorder it helps to talk to a professional trained in working with these problems. They can help you identify exactly what it is you are struggling with and explain how to start the recovery process. We have the necessary training, skills, experience and dedication to work with you safely, respectfully and steadfastly.