We have all felt worried, stressed and anxious at points in our lives. This can be a very normal 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 or job interview. However, sometimes we may find ourselves starting to worry and feel anxious even when there are no obvious reasons for it. 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.
- Restlessness or 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. Therefore, 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, if the anxiety is impacting on your quality of life, do seek support.
Research shows that there are a number of effective approaches to treating worry and anxiety. The main ones are talking therapy or medication or a combination of the two. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a strong evidence base for its effectiveness in treating anxiety; 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 for worry and anxiety. Medication may be considered for more severe symptoms.
However, everyone is an individual. Although CBT can be extremely effective for worry and anxiety, sometimes a different approach or a therapy tailored to the individual is more appropriate. The assessment stage of any therapeutic intervention develops an in depth understanding of your difficulties on which an individualised therapy plan can be developed.