People often experience physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they feel anxious or stressed.
Anxiety is a normal, but unpleasant, part of life, and it can affect us all in different ways, and at different times.
Whereas stress is something that will come and go as the external factor causing it comes and go, such as a work situation, a relationship or money problems for example.
Anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to the sufferer. This can cause severe physical symptoms, such as chest pain that can feel like you are having a heart attack, though to psychological distress in the case of OCD, where you feel compelled to perform tasks or something dreadful might happen, or worse still that you may do something awful.
Anxiety can make a person imagine that things in their life are worse than they really are, and it can spread, so that it ends up impacting on all areas of someone's life. Often someone will think they are going mad, or that some psychological imbalance is at the heart of their issue.
What is important is the recognition that Anxiety is normal and exists due to a set of bodily functions that have existed in us from our
caveman days. Back then, we were equipped with an internal alarm system designed to protect us from the dangers surrounding us in the wild. This system would make us hyper-alert by giving us a boost of adrenaline that would increase the heart rate and boost the amount of oxygen going to our limbs so we were better able to fight or run from danger.
This is known as the “fight or flight” response. The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many associate with anxiety is this mechanism kicking in, but instead of being used to avoid immediate danger, it is often wrongly and inappropriately activated in a person during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often unknowingly.
Some people have a very identifiable cause for their anxiety. It can be caused by a traumatic incident, or someone experiencing a significant life event, like moving house, getting divorced, having surgery. However, some people don’t have an identifiable cause, or at least they are not aware of what is causing it.
Some of the most common anxiety is health anxiety. This can be exhausting, and very distressing as someone consistently feels that there is something wrong with them. Having Health Anxiety can mean you start to worry that a headache is a brain tumour and any pain means that there is something seriously wrong with them.
Sarah Steventon is one of the very few Psychotherapist in the UK who specialises in anxiety disorders, with specialist training in Neuropsychology and Neuro Psychopathology.
Panic Attack & Anxiety Attack
What is an anxiety attack and what is a panic attack?
As a psychotherapist that specialises in anxiety, these are two of the questions I get asked the most. Some of the common physical symptoms of anxiety are:
Increased heart rate
Increased muscle tension
Tingling in the hands and feet
Hyperventilation (over breathing)
Difficulty in breathing
Wanting to use the toilet more often
Tight band across the chest area
You may on occasion experience a panic attack - which can feel like any of the following:
Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
Thinking that you might die
Thinking that you may have a heart attack
Feel sick and like you might faint
Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you
Unfortunately, once you have one panic attack, it can then produce a run of them, just because of how the brain works, however the good news is Panic Attacks can be sorted out fairly simply.
Sarah is able to work with her clients to neutralise the feeling of anxiety or panic. 'Anxiety is not something you should have to manage - so this is not 'anxiety management'. I am able to work with my clients to actually alleviate the anxiety, and stop it in it's tracks.
She is experienced in dealing with clients experiencing panic attacks along with all other Anxiety conditions, such as:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Phobias of any kind including Agoraphobia, Claustrphobia, Fear of Flying, Fear of public speaking
Health Anxiety - constantly worrying you have something wrong with you
Social Phobia/Social Anxiety
Anxiety medication can actually sometimes exacerbate the symptoms.
Sarah works with some of the most successful and proven methods to deal with all types of anxiety behaviour, ranging from unpleasant feelings to full blown panic attacks, and unnecessary worrying to over-thinking.
If you think you are having an anxiety attack or a panic attack but you are not certain what it is, you should seek immediate assistance. If you are experiencing chest pain and you are not sure why call 999 immediately.
Sarah works from both her consulting room in Warwick and her Harley Street practice in London.
What causes Anxiety
What can cause Anxiety?
Anxiety problems arise because of chronic levels of stress. Stress is any pressure or accumulation of pressures - physical or psychological, that becomes too much for a person to cope with comfortably, so it is really what any person perceives as stress for them as an individual, so of course this will vary from person to person.
The right amount of stress can actually be a positive experience, which may sound strange at first, but it can help to push us, challenge us, motivate us, help us to stay focussed and it can even energise us.
However, different amounts of stress affect people differently, and when stress takes it toll, it can affect many different areas of your life. Whether it be relationships, mood, health, productivity or your ability to focus on things, even daily life can seem difficult when we are overly stressed.
Often, it is the situations to which we are committed and have no real control which cause us the most difficulty with anxiety – public speaking, leading team meetings, face to face sales or a big pitch to a client are all typical examples of situations in which we feel trapped and unable to take control.
The physical response of stress is a very normal one, and it is our defence mechanism which is intending to protect us from harm, but often too much stress can tip us over into what we call ‘survival mode’, which in turn can trigger our fight or flight response.
Work deadlines, a difficult boss, being stuck in a traffic jam, or missing one of your children's school events, are all very stressful, but unfortunately the part of our brain which gives the direction to set off the 'fight and flight' response, is not able to distinguish between events like this, and those that really are life threatening.
If you are suffering with anxiety you will know all about the fight or flight response, and if you don’t, you can be sure that you have experienced it first-hand. Some common effects of the fight or flight response are, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, shaking of limbs, palpitations.
People will respond to stress in different ways, and it can manifest itself in different ways too, which can be in the form of an anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately many of the usual therapies are not able to help with anxiety disorders as they only work on a cognitive level.
Therapy such as CBT - which stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or any form of counselling give little or no effect.
This is due to the fact that CBT and other forms of counselling, works only with the cognitive rational part of the brain – and as people experiencing anxiety will know, anxiety and OCD is very definitely not rational. They are fully aware that the feelings they have, or the acts they are driven to perform are not logical and they are something they can control, so being told by a therapist to think about it in a different way is totally useless - and extremely frustrating for them.
Anxiety, in all forms, whether general anxiety, social anxiety, health anxiety, or OCD, is created in a different part of the brain. It is a part of the brain that responds in lightening speed, it is so fast it responds prior to the conscious rational part of the brain gets involved.
This is the part of the brain we work work. Using very simple, but cutting edge, techniques that are in keeping with the most recent findings in neuroscience, we are able to work to neutralise anxiety and can make changes often instantaneously.
Stopping those feelings of anxiety before they happen, so you don't need to try to learn techniques or coping mechanisms or distractions methods, because you will no longer experience the feeling or thought in the first place.
All this can happen in a relatively quick time-frame too - so you are not in therapy for months on end.
The additional benefit to using these cutting edge techniques, is that it is actually quite simple to do, and it can be done online, using Skype/Zoom.
If you are experiencing anxiety, or other issues, get in touch - this can be fixed with the right help.
One of the most debilitating forms of Anxiety is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD for short, which can completely take over your life.
OCD shows itself in many different formats. From compulsions, to just obsessive thoughts, known as Pure O.
Many therapies work with the rational part of the brain, and therefore are not effective, because as anyone experiencing OCD will know, the compulsions aren't not rational.
We need to work with a specific part of the brain to change response patterns before they reach consciousness. The OCD trigger is caught and stopped in it’s tracks preventing it from firing up again in the future.
We work on both the triggers and behavioural elements of OCD, provides long lasting results without the need for any ongoing coping strategies.