We all get anxious. Most of the time we can contain the feelings that accompany anxiety; we know that they are uncomfortable but also that they will pass. However, many of us will have periods in our lives when excess anxiety overstays its welcome and we might need some help in hustling it out the door.
When something is wrong, it can sometimes be difficult for us to recognise the signs of our own excess anxiety. Often, the people around us notice but as the person in the middle of it all, we might not realise that things have got out of hand. Some of the signs and symptoms of problematic anxiety are:
- withdrawal from social interaction – e.g. refusing invitations, not returning calls
- poor sleep
- panic attacks
- stomachache or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- angry outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation
- over or under-eating
- drinking too much alcohol or coffee
- trouble concentrating
If you have checked with your GP to make sure that there is no underlying medical reason for any of the above (e.g. for headaches or IBS), it might be that stress and anxiety are playing a part.
Talking about how we feel with someone we trust can be helpful. Counselling and psychotherapy can uncover the assumptions we make about how to relate to others. Although these assumptions were once useful to us – perhaps they kept us feeling emotionally safe as children – they may no longer be relevant to the way we currently live our lives and, at worse, are getting in the way of us making good choices about how to respond to our own feelings and to other people. The therapeutic relationship can provide a safe and supportive space in which to take a closer look at what is going wrong, to explore options for change and to experiment with new assumptions about how to be in the world.
Lastly, I would like to make the point that eliminating anxiety altogether is, in my view, not only impossible but also undesirable. Higher than usual levels of anxiety that fluctuate within a normal range serve as a warning system that something is wrong and that we need to pay attention and take action to put things right. If we are unable to take action, the anxious feelings may build up until it feels like that they have become bigger than the original problem. This might be the time to seek outside help.
For help with anxiety and panic attacks in Brighton and Hove, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.