How much is anxiety ruling your life?
Anxiety therapy teaches you how to rest your mind and handle fear more effectively.
Everyone feels scared and anxious. But when you suffer from it all the time and can’t sleep, you know that it’s a problem that needs addressing. Anxiety Therapy is a powerful way to tackle these difficulties and stop them from taking over your life forever.
Why do I feel worried nearly all the time?
It’s natural to feel worried because there is a lot in life that you cannot control. Even when you can control some things a little, you can’t control them completely. For example:
- Even though you eat healthily and exercise, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get unwell.
- You can do everything to protect the people you care about, but something terrible might still happen to them.
- You can take every precaution to ensure you don’t feel panicky, but you might still feel overwhelmed.
The brutal truth is that none of us is especially effective in controlling what we think or feel or what happens in the world. And, yet, it doesn’t stop us from trying!
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural human experience. Many anxious people say that they feel on edge, restless or agitated. When you think about something uncomfortable or threatening, you don’t feel confident that you’ll handle the situation very well.
When THREATS LOOK BIG, your ability to deal with them looks small. Unfortunately, once anxiety shows up, it acts like a magnet. You don’t just worry about one thing; every other possible thing that could go wrong floods into your mind.
What happens in your mind when you feel anxious?
Grown-ups often told you to concentrate and pay attention when you were little. However, they didn’t realise that you were paying attention, just to something else that seemed more interesting. An anxious mind finds it challenging to rest its attention on one thing. Instead, it bounces all over the place. It can make problem-solving tricky, and your worries can run away. Before you know it, you feel like your mind won’t stop racing and that you’re going ‘mad’.
What happens in your body when you feel anxious?
When your feelings change, the sensations in your body change too. Anxiety triggers a survival response commonly known as fight, flight and freeze. This fear response helps you escape, defend yourself or give in. These reactions aren’t thought-out; they’re fast and furious. They come from an old part of your brain called your limbic system. All animals have this feature in their system. We need it to stay alive, so getting rid of anxiety is futile.
Although you can’t get rid of anxiety, you can significantly reduce the adverse effects on your life. Long-term anxiety sufferers often report uncomfortable physical sensations, including:
- muscle tension
- tight chest
- dry mouth
- tight throat
- loss of appetite
- blurred vision
- irritable bowel
- racing heart
- urges to go to the toilet
- shaking hands or legs.
It isn’t true for everyone, so don’t dismiss your anxiety if you don’t get these physical sensations. Many people describe their anxiety as more thought-based than physical. We, humans, are different from each other, and the most important thing is to know that however your anxiety presents, there are some powerful ways we can help you.
Many people come to see us for help because they desperately want to be rid of their anxiety. They want to stop feeling scared and eliminate the horrible intrusive thoughts and worries filling their brains.
If you want to change how anxiety rules your life, the therapy we offer can help you in ways you haven’t yet imagined.
How can we help?
Our Birmingham-based CBT and Counselling Services teach you simple and effective ways to stop anxiety from ruling your life. You may have tried relaxation techniques before, which have had mixed success. We offer simple exercises to help reduce your stress, but that is just the start. Our therapists, counsellors and psychologists will teach you how to take power out of the anxiety and your intrusive thoughts so that you focus on what matters.
We use a combination of evidence-based psychological approaches, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), and Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) for past traumas.
What happens when you see a Therapist?
When you work with a therapist, counsellor or psychologist, you’ll learn various exercises that help you develop critical psychological skills. In a session, you can expect to learn:
- Attention exercises help slow down your mind and increase focus and concentration.
- Different creative methods for dealing with thoughts more effectively.
- About emotions, what they’re for, what they mean and how to use them as signposts to what you might need.
- How to develop a bright mind to replace unhelpful self-criticism that makes you feel worse.
We aim to help you get to the root of the problem quickly. We focus less on why this has happened to you and more on targeting what will help you break free of the anxiety.
What different types of anxiety are there?
One can categorise anxiety into specific problem types, such as:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Phobia
- Generalised Anxiety /Excessive Worry
- Travel phobia/Agoraphobia
There are several other types of anxiety, but these tend to be the most common, and the focus of therapy is very similar.
What is OCD?
OCD is a severe anxiety problem that can take over your life. Its stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. An obsession is a thought you don’t like having, so it’s often called an intrusive thought.
Typical intrusive thoughts include themes of cleanliness or contamination, violent imagery, sexualised imagery, criminal or harmful thinking, and religious imagery. Many OCD sufferers are frightened that they will lose control or that if they don’t control their thoughts, then something terrible will happen. These intrusive thoughts take on an obsessive-like quality, where the name originates.
A compulsion is a response to obsessive thoughts. It can be an overt behaviour that others can observe or something private that you do in your mind. For example:
- excessive cleaning
- avoidance of people or places
- Getting rid of objects that can be used as weapons
- checking appliances, doors and windows
- touching objects multiple times
- silently repeating words or phrases
- telling yourself, ‘it will be ok.
The intention behind these compulsions is to neutralise anxiety and stop ‘bad thing’s from happening. Sadly, these compulsions rarely make people feel soothed or safe. Instead, they have the opposite effect; people become chronically anxious, and their lives shrink.
While it can seem impossible to get past your OCD, the truth is that many people learn to get past these fears and improve their lives in extraordinary ways. If you want some help for your OCD, then one of our CBT therapists or psychologists will be happy to help.
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What is Panic?
Panic is an intense anxiety state that can be very distressing. We all feel panic from time to time. Did you ever not know where your child had gone? Did you go away doubting you’d turned the cooker off? Panic can leave you powerless to stop the disaster you imagine is about to occur.
While it is common to feel panic, some people experience panic ‘attacks that interfere with their lives. You go to extreme lengths to control or avoid panic when this happens. You might avoid going places or take many precautions, e.g. keep medications or water in your bag, ensure you are with someone when you go out, stay close to the exits when inside, or go to the toilet before you leave home.
Panic is a frightening experience, especially when you don’t understand what is happening. However, once you know, it doesn’t necessarily become less scary. It is uncomfortable to feel panic because it feels like you aren’t in control. Typically, people report having a heart attack, fainting, suffocating or unable to breathe, losing their mind or having a stroke.
The reason people report these fears is that physical sensations can confuse people. Many of the physical sensations you experience during panic are similar to what you get when having these medical emergencies. However, once you learn more about anxiety and panic, you can easily tell the differences.
If you are struggling with panic, one of our counsellors, therapist or psychologists in Birmingham will be happy to help. Get in touch to book a consultation.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety or social phobia is anxiety people experience when in social situations. Humans are social beings, and we all care about what other people think about us. However, socially anxious people tend to be overly concerned with what others think and often assume that people consider the worst.
Many shy people are also socially anxious. Social situations can be stressful for all of us. Large groups can feel overly stimulating, or one-on-one contexts can feel threatening because you feel more exposed.
When social anxiety interferes with your life, it’s because of several factors. Firstly, you over-identify with a negative view of who you are, e.g. that you are boring or unlikeable. Secondly, you perceive that other people also see you in this way. Thirdly, you take many precautions to avoid or prevent people from thinking about this. Typical responses include: avoiding eye contact or starting conversations, rehearsing before you go out, trying too hard to be funny or clever, over-analysing things you’ve said or seeking reassurance from your friends.
Underneath this fear of rejection is a deep longing to be closer to people. In therapy, we help you build up the ways you connect with people, develop self-compassion and abandon strategies that get damage relationships.
What is Generalised Anxiety?
Generalised Anxiety, or GAD, describes the problem of uncontrollable worry. Anyone with a mind will worry because worrying is a natural reaction to life. You cannot wholly control many things, e.g. your health, people’s welfare and safety, money, and what others think about you. Worrying is an automatic response that is both natural and problematic.
Many people overly rely on worry to cope with these uncertainties. The downside is that worry can lead to more anxiety and fear. If you don’t get a handle on it, you can lose hours, days or months in your mind worrying about things you will never be able to control.
Although worry happens in your mind, it is a behaviour that you have learned. If you describe yourself as a ‘worrier’, the probability is that you can spot the same tendency in one of your parents. Worrying is a learned way of navigating the world, its risks, and its potential. However, it is a poor strategy because it stops you from living life to the full.
What is travel phobia or agoraphobia?
Travel anxiety/phobia or agoraphobia are similar to panic. Unlike panic, which can come out of the blue, travel anxiety is triggered by being in a car, bus, train, or aeroplane.
Agoraphobia is the fear of feeling panic while outside and away from home. Your home can feel like a refuge for many people whose lives are restricted by anxiety. It’s the place you want to get to when you feel overwhelmed. However, typically, the truth is that travelling or being outside is no less safe than being at home; your mind convinces you that it is safer.
Getting back home may give you relief which feels safer. However, when you often retreat to your home to seek safety, it can leave you sad, frustrated and lonely. Thus, staying at home doesn’t improve your life; it eases your anxiety a little short term.
Many people suffering from travel anxiety or agoraphobia miss out on what life offers. You lose your independence and freedom. Your hopes and dreams become unlikely fantasies, and you risk resigning yourself to a small life. While that is a choice, it needn’t be the only one. Our therapists will be happy to help and show you how you can learn to feel safe wherever you go.
Facing your fears so you can live life to the full
An essential feature of anxiety therapy is building-up exposure to your fears. It is a crucial step to take. Overcoming anxiety problems involves learning to get better at experiencing anxiety and fear. You can’t avoid this, but we will be with you to show you how to cope with it. We’ll show you what to do, and how to apply the skills that help you relax more easily and support you to keep taking tiny steps outside your comfort zone. It is called Deliberate Practice, and it aims to ensure you get to improve and build both your skills and your confidence.