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How to spot anxiety

Anxiety attacks can last between 5 and 20 minutes and can come on very quickly. If you suffer with ongoing mental health illnesses such as OCD, Tourette's, Depression, Trauma, Acrophobia etc then the effects could last a lot longer and become debilitating.

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 or a constant feeling of nausea

  • You may choose to fight (as opposed to run away) - this may include being physically or verbally aggressive. You will feel your muscles tense

  • Not sleeping or eating properly (over eating and under eating)

  • Not able to focus on anything (a feeling that your head is going to explode or your thoughts are just whirring around in your head)

  • Ruminating or obsessing on the thing causing anxiety or just waiting for anxiety / panic to kick in (always on tenterhooks)

  • Feelings of dread and you are unable to articulate why

  • Stuck - not able to think straight, do the things you would normally do, constantly thinking about traumatic events

  • Focusing on the negatives and not seeing the positives

  • Magnifying (catastrophising) or minimising problems

  • Other behaviours caused such as TICs, compulsions, sadness, fear, extreme anger at yourself and people around you

  • The list goes on...

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. I appreciate it is easy for me to say this and at a level everyone I support knows that 'bad things will probably not happen or have not happened' however it is hard to see this or feel it when you are in a state of anxiety.

We all feel anxious at 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 in a book (I always ask the people I support to keep a diary of the thoughts and events that kick in anxious feelings) as this will help you find a pattern. This is what we would call the trigger; the thing that brought on the anxiety. The trigger could be:

  • When you hear, see, smell, taste or touch something

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

  • Certain people

  • Certain places

  • Something that you cannot quite put your finger on

My next BLOG will focus on techniques you can use to deal with anxiety. However, if you want to gain back control then please book an initial consultation to see how I can help.

Much Love Jo xxxx

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