I talk about anxiety a lot obviously because that is a big part of what I do!!
I'm going to recap some stuff about anxiety but I'm also going to talk about some of the deeper issues that anxiety can cause because it is quite a difficult thing to deal with an ongoing basis, people actually can develop quite severe issues if anxiety is not dealt with.
I'm also going to talk through some different anxiety disorders as well and give you a very brief overview of what they are.
Anxiety is the fear of a future event as to why we have that fear depends on the person, depends on the situation and depends on whether or not there's been a past issue.
It also depends on whether or not the person with anxiety is lacking in the personal self belief and their confidence to take on new things or situations.
Our perspective on a future event is also key to anxiety and I have talked extensively in workshops about how thoughts lead to feelings which lead to certain actions.
Common negative thoughts are things like; "what if it all goes wrong" or "what if I look stupid". That leads to certain feelings like increased heart rate, feeling dizzy and stomach issues.
These feelings lead to certain actions, that's the cycle that we talk through, which are often avoidance.
It depends on the anxiety sometime people just cope in the situation but very often is avoidance that generally we go to for anxiety.
Physical process of anxiety
Essentially our brain is wired to keep us alive so our perception of danger triggers a fight or flight response in our brain.
Hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, are the main ones that are responsible for this particular effect on the body. These stress hormones are often the reason why we get the symptoms of anxiety and when we talking about generalised anxiety, which I will discuss more later in this blog, that can be quite constant thing.
which is why I want to talk about the long-term health effects of having anxiety particularly over long period.
Just as a quick disclaimer because I talk about anxiety as a negative thing I feel like I should make it very clear that it is not always a bad thing. It is a natural process that our brains do and there are certain situations where being anxious is actually good thing for example, if you're walking home alone at night and you see somebody coming towards you carrying a knife that is a good situation to be anxious in, your anxiety is trying to keep you alive. So sometimes it's useful and sometimes it's normal.
But what we talk about when we specify anxiety disorders, is the kind of anxiety that stops you doing things that you enjoy or takes over your life in a really big way.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
generalized anxiety disorder is the most common one that I see in clinic. It's when somebody is anxious about a wide variety of things. It's classed as general anxiety disorder when that's been a constant issue for more than 6 months.
If you have had anxiety for more than 6 months and your anxious about many things, then it is quite likely that if you were to go to the GP they would agree that have generalised anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is quite obviously a fear of being in a social space it can be small groups people it can be large groups people can be anything it depends on the person.
This is largely characterised by a fear of being humiliated or fear of looking stupid in front of people, essentially a fear of being judged by people.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Another anxiety disorder, and this is a very severe one which we have to be very very careful with is post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a anxiety disorder but it's a very extreme one which is brought upon by experiencing some sort of trauma.
The interesting thing about PTSD is that sometimes symptoms happen straight away and sometimes it can take years and people don't realise that it's a problem until many many years later.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterised by two different things there's the compulsion to do things like the rituals, often cleaning of hands, and then there's the persistent unwanted thoughts which is the obsessive aspect of it.
The unwanted thoughts can be very extreme and disturbing to the individual.
Phobias are a fear of a particular thing, they can develop for no discernible reason or be linked to a traumatic event.
You see avoidance commonly in people with phobias, they avoid going to the dentist, motorways, spiders, whatever the phobia is focused on.
Panic disorder is characterised by panic attacks which are horrific things to go through, if you've never had a panic attack is difficult to fully describe to you how horrendous they feel like.
People have phoned paramedics before because they're having panic attacks because the heart rate goes so fast and they hyperventilate so much their body just goes into a state of overdrive and it can be horrific experience.
Another aspect of this type of anxiety is that you can often get random feelings of terror, which come about for no obvious reason we can usually find a reason through therapy but sometimes that comes on without people realising.
Also feeling of impending doom as another one that people often don't realise is linked to a panic disorder.
Long term effects of anxiety
I mentioned briefly that you have the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol present as a result of anxiety. When they're in the bloodstream for a long period of time they have effects on the body that can be quite negative.
A common long term issue is headaches and persistent dizziness or sometimes dizziness that comes on every now and then.
Long term anxiety can lead to depression and raised cortisol levels have been linked to weight gain.
Also because the heart is working so much harder, it puts you in a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
There is also connection between stress stress hormones and irritable bowel syndrome. I have had many clients with irritable bowel syndrome, and as their anxiety has reduced so have their irritable bowel symptoms.
Elevated stress hormones also initially boost the immune system, but then over time if the anxiety continues then it can lead to the immune system being weakened. This makes you more likely to get colds and other infections.
So you might find that if you had anxiety for long time, you start to notice that you're getting ill more often. It can be quite a common symptom that people don't actually realise or associate with anxiety.
Long term mental effects of anxiety
I mentioned previously that anxiety can lead to depression. This is because the anxiety has such a profound effect on the persons life and changes how they think about themselves. The anxiety becomes part of who they are...
Anxiety isn't a thing that you can be it's a disorder.
The negative thoughts that a person with anxiety has regularly, become so practiced in that person that they become beliefs. Often when we believe something, we consider it to be a fact.
This can be a very challenging issue for the therapist as I have to get people to challenge their negative beliefs about themselves, which they consider to be true!!
Examples of this are things like "I'm not very good with people" so that will be a long-term social anxiety that is likely to lead to personal belief about themselves. This individual may actually be very kind or empathetic in social situations but their anxiety has led them to believe that they can't socialise correctly.
"I'm just a worrier" how many people describe themselves as a worrier? that's a long-term anxiety that has become a long term negative personal belief.
These negative personal beliefs are going to have a huge impact on the way that you act and the life choices that you make!!
If you have anxiety then please do something about it before it becomes a long term issue.
Even if it is a long term issue, there is loads of work that I can do to help you challenge those beliefs and overcome your anxiety.
Courses are available at my clinic in Andover, Hampshire UK. Or they are available over Skype for clients who are not local.
Contact: [email protected] for more information.
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