Counselling, Psychotherapy and Clinical Psychology298

More about ANXIETY

Note: All of the below statistics and risk factors were published before the Covid19 pandemic, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers of people experiencing anxiety and post traumatic stress symptoms. 

The World Health Organisation reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with 1 in 13 people affected; and the incidence of anxiety is still rising, with increasing numbers of children and adolescents being diagnosed with the disorder. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable and yet less than 40% of sufferers actually receive treatment.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. One reason for the general rise in anxiety is thought to be the burden of uncertainty and pressure in almost every area of modern life, in response to an array of economic and cultural shifts. Uncertainty doesn’t cause anxiety, but it provides breeding grounds for it.

Anxiety displays itself in a few diagnostically distinct ways. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is most common in older adults where concerns can reflect any of the major areas of life - work, relationships, money and health. Social Anxiety Disorder is on the rise among younger adults and is more narrowly focused on fear of negative evaluation by others. Younger children can also experience significant anxiety about many things they can't control - from parental arguments to events in the larger world. Normal worries become problematic when they interfere with sleep, going to school, paying attention in school, or engaging in important social experiences with others.

Occasional bouts of anxiety are entirely normal, but sometimes worries get out of control. They may arise for no apparent reason, or be disproportionate to the situation. The endless stream of worry in the mind or physical symptoms, such as heart pounding discomfort or shortness of breath, may prompt you to avoid situations that could trigger the discomfort or a panic attack. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it consumes too much mental activity or interferes with activities and performance.

Regardless of how real or imagined the threat is that you’re reacting to, anxiety is both a mental and physical state. It’s orchestrated by a cascade of hormones that affect almost every system of your body, from attention to energy metabolism. Physical symptoms can be highly misleading and often lead to medical misdiagnosis. Symptoms may be assumed to be the result of physical causes and in a misdirected search for them, the true source of the problem can continue undiscovered and unaddressed.

Anxiety requires active treatment, otherwise it constricts life and tends to become a chronic condition. The good news is that anxiety disorders can be successfully treated with psychotherapy and lifestyle shifts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), tailored to an individual’s specific anxieties, is one of the most effective options. CBT helps people recognize the cognitive distortion that anxiety forces on them, helps them confront their fears safely, and provides techniques for reversing reactivity. Lifestyle changes play an important role in the long term management of anxiety. Exercising, deep-breathing, programs of meditation, and other psychotherapy treatments such as EMDR are used - all targeting very specific facets of the disorder. Like all treatment, the goal is to restore calm. But it does much more. It helps people regain control over themselves when worry and panic threaten to overwhelm them.

Therapy has the added value of taking place in the presence of a real human being in a safe environment. As social creatures, we have nervous systems keenly attuned to the influence of others. The presence of a helpful person constitutes a powerful signal of safety, directly and deeply countermanding the (mistaken) alarms of threat that define the disorder of anxiety.

Most therapists at Asana Health are experienced in treating anxiety disorders.

'What is Anxiety' - a short video animation about the condition.

'What is an Anxiety Disorder' - a short video animation explains