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Fact Sheet: Anxiety

Anxiety is both a mental and physical response to a perceived threat. In modest amounts, anxiety is beneficial, safeguarding us from potential dangers and directing our focus towards problem-solving and certain challenges such as exams. However, when anxiety is too severe or occurs too frequently, it can become debilitating.

Anxiety manifests in different ways:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - a general, long-lasting worry and anxiety about everyday life, about anything and everything which then can significantly impact day-to-day life such as avoiding going to school, socialising and doing the things that we enjoy.

  • Panic Attacks – unpredictable and intense anxiety attacks that arise suddenly. Common physical symptoms include shortness of breath, a racing heart, chest pains and a sense of impending doom.

  • Phobias – this is where your anxiety is concentrated on a specific issue leading to apprehension and nervousness. This can result in avoidance of the feared subject. Examples of phobias are emetophobia (fear of vomit or vomiting), agoraphobia (fear of crowds and going outside), and social anxiety (fear of judgment from others and meeting new people).

Anxiety can look and feel very different for everyone. It becomes problematic when it starts affecting our daily routines and stops us from engaging in activities, we once found enjoyable. It can be displayed through various emotional and physical symptoms, turning the process of coping into a genuine struggle for many. Some indicators of anxiety are:

  • Stomach problems, such as pains, feeling sick or diarrhoea,

  • Heart beating fast (palpitations), sweating, tense muscles,

  • Feeling shaky, breathing fast or finding it hard to breathe

  • Grinding your teeth,

  • Feeling nervous, on edge, like something bad is going to happen,

  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope

  • Feeling self-conscious, needing a lot of reassurance,

  • Feeling tired and grumpy, 

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate,

  • Loss of appetite

  • Overeating

  • Having sleep problems

  • Avoiding people or places

  • Not going out

  • Leaving situations early

If anxiety stops you from doing the things you want to do there are some things you can try that may help:

  • Read all about it. Reading up on anxiety can help you identify what you are going through and help you feel less isolated and worried.

  • Engaging in exercise can be beneficial, particularly during emotional and challenging times. It triggers the release of endorphins, known as feel-good chemicals in our brains. It serves as a healthy distraction, enhances social interactions, and boosts confidence, making it an excellent and largely cost-free coping strategy.

  • Practice calming or mindful breathing – this one act alone will help reduce the physical sensations, emotions, and intensity of thoughts. It is a good idea to practice relaxation regularly, not just at times of crisis.

  • Counselling, which can help in several ways:

    • Validation of Feelings: Counsellors provide a safe and non-judgmental space for you to express your thoughts and feelings to help you feel understood and accepted.

    • Identification of Triggers: Counsellors work with you to help you to identify specific triggers that contribute to feelings of stress or anxiety. Understanding these triggers is important for developing coping strategies.

    • Exploration of Root Causes: Counsellors work with you to explore underlying issues that may contribute to feeling stressed or anxious. This could involve past experiences or ongoing stressors like school or relationships.

    • Self-Care Strategies: Counsellors work with you to develop ideas for self-care routines and look at what else you can do to look after yourself to lessen the feelings of stress and worry.

    • Stress Management: Counselling can help you learn effective stress management techniques which can be important in reducing anxiety levels.

    • Referral to Additional Resources: If necessary, counsellors can connect you with additional resources such as CAMHS, support groups, or other mental health services. Please use the links below for more information.

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If you want to learn more about your feelings, and find more information and resources please click on the buttons:

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