How to spot anxiety

Anxiety attacks can last between 5 and 20 minutes and can come on very quickly.

If you suffer from anxiety attacks your behaviours may include:

  • Not going out / avoiding people, places and things that cause the stress

  • Being specific about what you do, for example only going out shopping when it’s less busy or only going shopping with another person

  • Locking yourself away from everyone / Not wanting to talk

  • Using safety behaviours such as not speaking to a certain person, using passive aggression, smoking or drinking more than normal, substance abuse, self-talk (constantly talking to yourself in your head), meditation etc.

  • Running away from a situation that may cause you anxiety

  • Heart rate increases (causes changes in your breathing pattern), palms may become sweaty, you may feel 'butterflies' in your stomach

  • You may choose to fight (as opposed to run away) - this may include being physically or verbally aggressive

Safety behaviours can also help to keep your anxiety going. Whilst you depend on them to help you cope, you don't get to find out that without them, the anxiety would reduce and go away on its own.

Whilst avoiding people or situations might help you feel better at that time, it doesn't make your anxiety any better over a longer period. If you're frightened that your anxiety will make you pass out or vomit in the supermarket aisle, you won't find out that won't actually happen, because you don't go. So the belief that it will happen remains, along with the anxiety.

We all feel anxious some times. A certain amount of anxiety helps us to be more alert and focused. For example just prior to an exam, a few exam nerves have a positive effect - motivating us, helping us focus our thoughts on the job in hand, and making us more alert. Too much anxiety, or constantly being anxious, is unhealthy and detrimental to our lives and relationships.

The first step to combatting anxiety is to notice when you are more likely to get anxious or when you do actually get anxious or have a panic attack. Note it down as this will help you find a pattern. This is what we would call the event; the thing that triggered the anxiety. The trigger could be:

  • When you hear or see something

  • When you are thinking of a situation; something that happened in the past (trauma) or may happen in the future

  • Certain people

  • Certain places

Next month we will talk about some techniques you can use to deal with anxiety.

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