Understanding and Managing Severe Anxiety
Written by Counsellor/Clinical Supervisor and EMDR Practitioner: Christine Bartlett MBACP, BPS, BSc Hons Psychology, PG Dip Supervision, Registered EMDR Practitioner
ANXIETY is something most people experience from time to time and is recognised as a normal response to situations that we perceive to be threatening. Anxiety can be helpful in some situations, for example, when we need to cope with an emergency. Anxiety is not helpful when it stops people from doing what they want to do or when people begin to worry that they may have something seriously wrong with them.
ANXIETY in extreme cases can cause:
- physical signs such as heart starting to pound, legs turn to jelly, stomach churning, hands shaking,
sweating, breathing becoming faster
- negative thoughts, such as "I can’t cope”, “I have to get out", "I know I'm going to make a fool of
myself", "I'm going mad"; often the mind starts racing or losing concentration
- feeling ‘panicky', fear, or anxious
People do often mistake anxiety symptoms for a physical illness or condition. It can cause people to start avoiding normal situations.
ANXIETY has different causes:
Some people may be described as having an anxious personality and have "learned" to worry.
Yet others may be under pressure at work home, from family problems, bills, relationships etc
Others may have had a series of stressful life events to cope with, such as bereavement, redundancy, divorce, carer roles or traumatic situations in which they found themselves unable to control events. Experiencing multiple trauma often develops into PTSD and/or panic attacks.
ANXIETY - maintenance factors
Someone who has experienced anxiety in a certain situation or as a result of ongoing stresses over a number of years may start to predict feeling anxious and becoming frightened of the symptoms themselves which in turn intensifies the very symptoms that are feared.
a) Vicious Circle of Anxiety
-because symptoms can be unpleasant, unusual, overwhelming or frightening, people often react by thinking that there is something physically or mentally wrong or live in dread that something truly awful is going to happen. This in itself causes more symptoms and so a vicious circle develops.
-once a vicious circle develops, avoidance is often used as a way of coping. Avoiding can make life very difficult and lead to a loss of confidence which can affect how good you feel about yourself, which in turn makes you feel more anxious - another vicious circle.
c) Reliving or Re-experiencing trauma
-in cases of complex trauma, individuals often describe re-living or re-experiencing the traumatic event(s). Different kinds of traumati situations can do this and have certain common factors: 1. The trauma was life threatening or led to actual or potentially serious injury 2. the individual reacted to the incident with intense fear, horror or feelings of helplessness. 3. PTSD symptoms often include intrusive thoughts, images, upsetting memories or flashbacks of the incident. An individual may develop PTSD symptoms whether they have been directly involved, or only witnessed the traumatic event.
ANXIETY - Effective treatment
Counselling works to help identify those situations you find stressful, to understand which specific symptoms are being triggered by stressful events/situations, and take steps to tackle anxious thoughts and feelings. Your therapist will work with you to explore coping strategies and techniques to reduce anxiety symptoms, help you regain your self-confidence and enhance a positive sense of wellbeing. If your anxiety has developed from traumatic life events, EMDR therapy is a recognised, effective treatment for complex trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Attacks and severe anxiety disorders (see NICE Guidelines 22.214.171.124).
Article written by Christine Bartlett - Maidstone
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Counselling (Integrative core models: Person-centred; Psychodynamic, CBT)
Areas of counselling I work with:
Addiction, Substance Misuse, Alcoholism
Anxiety (all Anxiety Disorders)
Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, Obesity (Eating Disorders)
Bipolar disorder/Manic depression
Eating disorders and Disordered Eating
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Narcissistic personality disorder
Pain... [read more]