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19th July 2024 

Anxiety is a very common cause of great distress and unhappiness for many people, however like all of our feelings in its place and in proportion to events it is very useful. If we are in a dangerous situation fear and anxiety helps us to react quickly to try to get us out of danger and can save our lives. However when anxiety gets out of control it becomes a real problem, and it doesn't seem to be recognised even as much as depression is now seen as a serious illness. You can usually ring your boss and say you can't come to work as you are depressed and the doctor has signed you off, however I wonder how being unable to work because you are too anxious might be received? Sometimes people experience anxiety and depression together but probably not as often as they are lumped together by professionals and the media which leaves the many people suffering anxiety alone rather left out. This can lead to feelings of isolation and shame and that often makes the anxiety worse as we feel we are strange and unlike others who seem to cope with life so well. In fact many more people are troubled by feelings of extreme anxiety- we just don't tell people about it!

A good place to start is to try to think about exactly what it is you are frightened of. This is not easy and of course is usually exactly what we are trying to avoid going near at all, but it will be useful however painful.It seems that often people then realise that they are feeling anxious about feeling anxious or having a panic attack.This sounds rather strange and unlikely but it is more common than you might think.Often it’s not an event or scenario that is so frightening itself but the thought of feeling panicky and out of control and also the physical symptons of anxiety, sweating, dizziness, difficulty breathing, sometimes described as a "feeling of impending doom". Feelings of being out of control leads to desire for more control of feelings and environment and because this is almost certain to be unsuccessful as we can't control everything inevitable failure of this leads to more anxiety.

Fear of unbearable feelings causes repression both conscious and unconscious of these feelings which makes them much more powerful and unnamed- the unknown is usually more frightening than the known however terrible…

Use of outside agents or activities to help distract from or mask the anxiety often contribute to the problem- alcohol, drugs, obsessive behaviour, sex, shopping gambling etc… This also often causes physical problems and feelings of guilt.

Past events and experiences affect how we feel now- painful and difficult experiences are sometimes "forgotten" as they are too painful to cope with and exploring the past and making some connections with how we feel now can often be helpful- sometimes just making the connections has a positive effect. We sometimes need a little help to explore these tricky areas and this is where counselling can be very useful.