What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a disturbing feeling of fear or dread.  When we are anxious we often feel that something terrible is about to happen.  Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation.  A certain amount of anxiety is helpful as it generates energy, excitement and focus which can help us to concentrate and perform at our best – for example in an exam, job interview, sporting event or family emergency.  However, if our anxiety becomes too high it may stop us from thinking clearly and acting effectively.  We may “freeze”, run away, avoid the situation or be afraid that we may act in a way which is inappropriate or out of character.

Anxiety affects us in a number of ways and often includes:

  • An intense physical response due to the arousal of the nervous system leading to physical symptoms such as a racing heart.  This physical response may escalate so that we experience panic attacks.
  • Negative thoughts about ourselves such as “I can’t cope” or “I can’t manage”.  We may get caught up in chains of worry with lots of “What if…?” thoughts so that a small worry rapidly grows out of all proportion and becomes a catastrophe waiting to happen.
  • Behaviour such as avoiding places which trigger our anxiety - for example, supermarkets or meetings at work, family gatherings or social situations.  We may feel so anxious that we repeatedly check  whether we have done things properly such as locking the front door or wording an email correctly.   Getting caught up in cycles of repeated checking or other behaviours such as cleaning or washing  may develop into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

CBT is a recommended treatment for anxiety

Scientific research has demonstrated that CBT is effective in treating anxiety.  CBT is recommended by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for the treatment of anxiety including panic attacks.
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