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What causes Anxiety?

When we experience the symptoms of anxiety such as the heart racing or feeling sweaty and shaky we are actually experiencing our bodily response to fear.

Our fear response comes about because our brains have evolved to keep us alive for as long as possible, his means that it is hard wired to fear things that threaten our lives.

What can happen in people with anxiety is that the fear response doesn’t only react to life threatening situations, it starts to respond to situations where death is very unlikely.

An example of this is fear of flying, statistically the risk of death is low but people with a fear of flying experience sometimes very extreme symptoms when faced with even the thought of flying.

Anxiety can also come about because of a fear of looking stupid, this might seem less important than life threatening situations but actually we evolved to be social creatures and our survival depends on that. Being laughed at, pushed away or ignored could have had a very dangerous impact on our ability to survive especially if it meant we lost a share in group resources.

This is why issues like social anxiety and fear of public speaking can also bring about these very extreme symptoms.

Why do we get it?

Our brains have evolved to react fast in situations that may be dangerous to us. We have a part of our brain called the amygdala which can set off our body's danger response in a split second. This danger response is now well known and is commonly called the fight or flight response.

What the amygdala does is also stimulate a part of our brain called the hippocampus which helps our brain to learn and to form memories. This means that if we are ever in a similar situation then our brain can react even faster to get us out of danger.

At some point our cortex will get involved and start to assess the situation to see if there is any danger. If there is no danger then the prefrontal cortex will send a message to the amygdala to chill. In theory this should stop our body's response however it can sometimes take a little time.

Please note: this is a very simplified version of the neuroscience.

So anxiety is normal?

To an extent yes, but it is only really useful to you in certain situations. When someone suffers from clinical anxiety, the normal anxiety has gone too far.

The key thing to ask yourself is how is my anxiety affecting my life?

If you have something big coming up in your life then a small amount of anxiety is normal, if your anxiety levels are making you feel very distressed or are stopping you from doing things in your everyday life or things that you want to be able to do then it has gone too far.

How can we manage anxiety that has gone too far?

When we are dealing with anxiety that would be considered a non-useful anxiety, for example a fear of something that we know is not life threatening, we are looking at what is causing the amygdala to fire off our body's response.

This is where we start talking about a perceived fear.

When we think negatively about the event or thing we are anxious about, we are creating a fear that our brains interpret as a potential danger to life.

Consider the difference between the thoughts of a person with social anxiety and a person without about attending a party:


The six steps to overcoming anxiety and building confidence

  1. Knowledge: The knowledge aspect of the Anxiety 2 Confidence course is an opportunity to understand more deeply what anxiety is and how it affects your body. We cover the role of adrenaline and how it impacts your anxiety and how negative thoughts are making your anxiety worse and starting the anxiety response.
  2. Self-awareness: This part of the Anxiety 2 Confidence course is structured to encourage you to start to notice how you are making your anxiety worse. Negative thoughts have been categorised into what we call cognitive distortions and you will have the opportunity to see which ones you think most regularly. In this section of the course we also look at the link between thoughts, feelings and actions. This will also help you to realise what anxiety patterns you are practicing over and over again.
  3. Control: This is where we start to work on controlling issues like panic attacks and negative thoughts. This is also where the hypnosis work and exercises start to become important in helping you take control over these issues.
  4. Achieving: My favourite section on the course! Now we start to build a plan of how you are going to move forwards through goal setting and developing motivation. For members with a specific issue such as fearing presentations, you can create a plan and a goal working towards doing this confidently.
  5. Positive Wellbeing: I call this the complementary section as is more of a general exploration of how you can bring activities into your life that promote positive wellbeing. This forms part of an overall wellbeing awareness that you can incorporate in whatever way suits your lifestyle.
  6. Confidence: The big one… Confidence is the key part of this course but can only be built once we understand what is stopping us from being confident. That is why its listed last even though it is arguably the most important thing for you. The confidence we create is personal to you and I am very aware that clients often worry about appearing arrogant. This section is about developing a calm and relaxed confidence that will help you in any future situation.

If you like mind maps as much as me then this is what all of this looks like:

All of this can be done online in the comfort of your own home and there are two options depending on what you feel would help you best. You can join the online only course, or you can combine the online course with online sessions with Clinical Hypnotherapist, Siobhan Booth.

Find out more about the courses here.

Impact of anxiety on our actions

Most people with anxiety try and avoid the anxiety as much as they can. There are other actions but avoidance is the main one, others include substance abuse and engaging in comfort activities such as over eating.

By being in this cycle of thinking something bad is going to happen, feeling anxious and then avoiding the situation we end up in a negative spiral that essentially sensitises us to the symptoms of anxiety. Thus over time, people generally make their own anxiety worse.

This is why it is so important that you choose to deal with your anxiety now.


Discover which common negative thinking patterns you have.

The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.

This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.

Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.