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We have all felt worried, stressed and anxious at points in our lives. This can be a very normal and expected feeling in response to a difficult situation such as doing something for the first time, meeting new people or going into a pressured situation such as an exam, job interview or performance. However, sometimes we may find ourselves starting to worry and feel anxious even when there are no obvious reasons to feel worried. We may find ourselves starting to worry far more than the situation warrants. Or we may find that worrying starts to interfere with day to day life and problems start to arise where they hadn’t done so before.
Do I have a problem with anxiety?
There are a number of ways you can recognise the signs that you are struggling with worry, stress or anxiety:
- Feeling anxious most days and struggling to remember a time when you didn’t feel worried.
- Feeling worried and anxious in a wide number of situations even though they may not all warrant worry.
- Feeling restless and unable to concentrate.
- Changes in appetite e.g. loss of appetite.
- Changes in sleep pattern e.g. falling asleep exhausted but waking early in the morning feeling worried and unable to get back to sleep.
- Finding it difficult to relax and enjoy your normal daily activities and interests.
When are worry and anxiety a problem?
This can differ between people depending on their personality, their coping skills, the severity of the symptoms, the support they have around them and the demands of life. What is not seen as a problem by one person may cause a number of difficulties for someone else. It is about how it affects you, what it is interfering with and what it is stopping you from doing. Symptom severity in itself does not necessarily indicate how much of a problem the worry and anxiety may be in a person’s life. What matters is whether it is a problem for you. However, there are a specific set of circumstances when help should be sought more urgently and these are outlined in the section below.
Research shows that there are a number of effective approaches to treating worry and anxiety which are often based on talking therapy or on medication or a combination of the two. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a strong evidence base for its effectiveness at alleviating the symptoms of worry and anxiety and the long term effects of this treatment often far exceed those of medication. The NHS website (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Treatment.aspx) which is based on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, recommends talking therapy such as CBT and applied relaxation as the treatment for mild to moderate symptoms of worry and anxiety but suggests that medication may be considered for more severe symptoms.
However, everyone is an individual and although CBT can be extremely effective for worry and anxiety, sometimes a different therapeutic approach or a therapy tailored to the individual and their needs is more appropriate. The assessment stage of any therapeutic intervention provides an opportunity to develop an in depth understanding of your difficulties on which a tailored individual therapy can be developed specifically for you.