Anxiety is familiar to everyone, and is usually a normal, useful and effective response in times of heightened stress which can be understood and resolved. Read information on anxiety causes, types, symptoms and treatment options below.
How is anxiety treated?
If you are struggling with severe anxiety then you should initially talk to your GP for assistance. He or she may offer you counselling or refer you to a specialist for further assessment. This may lead to outpatient treatment, or if more serious, day or inpatient treatment. Effective anxiety treatment can alleviate most, if not all of the distress and disability associated with anxiety and its disorders. If you are feeling debilitated by the condition, it may be a relief to know that our highly experienced consultants and therapists at the Priory can work with you to deal with anxiety, enable acceptance, or to help you to resolve the issues causing the anxiety.
We provide a range of treatments,including:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): this looks at thought patterns involved in anxiety, identifies when they've become distorted, then challenges you to think of new ways of looking at your situation
- Exposure: phobias can be treated with behavourial treatments such as exposure, where a person is reintroduced to an object or situation they are afraid of, in carefully graded stages
- Medication: if the disorder is severe and impacting significantly on daily life, then prescribed medications can be useful alongside CBT. The most commonly used medications for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant medication
Most anxieties improve with treatment and the skills learnt in therapy can help later in life when other stressful situations are met.
What types of anxiety are there?
Anxiety is a broad term for many underlying disorders and phobias, including:
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Includes constant worrying, feeling on edge and being unable to relax, which prevents pleasure in day-to-day life. It can be focussed on nearly anything, for example it may be about one’s physical health, upsetting people, or not being good enough at a particular activity.
Characterised by repeated, unexpected bouts of severe anxiety disorder with physical symptoms. It is not an uncommon reason for individuals to initially seek help at Accident and Emergency departments. With time, anxiety becomes more continuous, as a fear of having a panic attack becomes entrenched.
Causes repetitive unwanted thoughts or behaviours often related to issues concerning safety, contamination or harm. They seem impossible to stop or control, and can become extremely time consuming.
Social anxiety disorder
A debilitating fear of being thought badly of by others. It often has root in being very shy as a child. It can make it hard to develop friendships or a fulfilling social life. It affects how people perform in public, for example when making presentations.
Common and involves unrealistic fears of specific things for example, snakes or spiders, flying or heights.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A persisting anxiety state related to having had a traumatising experience, perhaps a car crash or difficult childbirth.
What causes anxiety?
In the natural world, a physical response to a frightening situation releases adrenaline, which prepares your body for action, the so-called 'fight or flight' response. While this helped our ancestors escape or fight their aggressors, in our modern lives a physical response is rarely necessary and the bodily changes produced are unpleasant and may result in an anxiety attack.
Who gets anxiety?
We can all suffer stress in certain situations, such as the death of a loved one, divorce or overwork. But some people have an anxious personality and can develop anxiety for no obvious reason.
What can I do to avoid anxiety?
There are a number of things that can help you avoid anxiety:
- Avoid rushing, trying to do too much, or being too competitive
- Allow time for relaxation, hobbies and having fun
- Get enough sleep and take regular exercise
- Avoid smoking
- Limit your intake of caffeine-based drinks and alcohol
- Avoid cannabis and other illegal drugs
- Make a 'problem list' and try and tackle the things on it one by one, rather than allowing yourself to be overwhelmed
- Ask yourself, 'What's the worst thing that can happen? Is it so bad really?'
How long does outpatient anxiety therapy take?
It's not an exact science and varies considerably from person to person and their particular type of anxiety and the severity of their symptoms, however psychological therapy is normally offered to outpatients, and usually involves one to two sessions each week for about six to eight weeks.
When is medication prescribed?
Medication is useful in cases of severe anxiety disorder, panic disorder and depression. The most useful drugs are SSRI anti-depressants – these are non-addictive and only work after several weeks. It is important to take a full course of treatment, which will be nine months or more. Beta-blockers, such as Propranolol, will reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. This can be useful in specific situations, like helping someone perform or speak in public. They are also used in longer-term treatment.
For the short-term relief of anxiety, anxiolytics such as diazepam can be useful, but these are addictive and aren't recommended for long-term use.
Anxiety help for younger people
Many of the Priory’s hospitals and clinics offer dedicated services for children and young people aged 12 and above (although the Priory Hospital Chelmsford also accepts children from the age of ten).
For younger people who receive treatment for anxiety as an inpatient, we offer a stable and homely environment with facilities exclusively available for younger people to use. Our highly experienced nursing and therapy teams maintain regular contact with the family or carers, community healthcare professionals and schools or colleges to help the young person return to the community when they are well enough. We offer support networks to help families learn more about their loved one’s illness, as well as practical strategies. These strategies can assist in overcoming anxiety.
For those who are under 18 years of age, we also provide a full education programme. This includes a comprehensive range of educational services and accredited on-site assessment facilities to ensure that your child receives continuous educational provision suitable to their needs and abilities.