Anxiety disorders are amongst the most common mental health problems with one in five adults in the UK affected by them.
Although anyone can be plagued with anxiety, a review of research carried out by scientists at Cambridge University has revealed that women are almost twice as likely to experience it compared to men.
The review also found that adults of both sexes under the age of 35 and those who suffer from chronic health conditions are at an increased risk of suffering from anxiety.
Speaking about the impact that the condition can have on sufferers, Olivia Remes from the department of public health and primary care at the University of Cambridge commented:
“There has been a lot of focus on depression – which is important – but anxiety is equally important and debilitating. It can lead to the development of other diseases and psychiatric disorders, increase the risk of suicide and it also has high costs to society.”
What is anxiety?
Anxiety occurs when a person experiences intense feelings of unease, worry or fear. It’s a common feeling that everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Situations like sitting an exam, a job interview or moving house make many people anxious, but this is normal and doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong. Anxiety becomes a problem when these feelings are so strong they stop you from doing everyday things, when you find yourself becoming particularly overwhelmed, or the anxiety lasts for a long time.
What are the signs of anxiety?
As anxiety is a perfectly normal human emotion, it can be difficult to determine when it has become a problem. The symptoms of the disorder can feel different for everyone but below are the most common physical and psychological sensations:
- Tense muscles
- Pins and needles
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Breathing faster than normal
- Sweating or having hot flushes
- A fast or irregular heartbeat
- Raised blood pressure
- Difficulty sleeping
- Needing the toilet more or less frequently
- Churning in your stomach
- Panic attacks
- Feeling tense, nervous or on edge
- Having a sense of dread or always fearing the worst
- Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
- Feeling self-conscious about your anxiety and that other people are looking at you because of it
- Feeling like your mind is very busy with thoughts
- Dwelling on negative experiences or thinking over situations again and again
- Feeling restless
- Not being able to concentrate
- Feeling numb
How to reduce anxiety
Take deep breaths - concentrate on your breath, try taking deep breaths to calm yourself down and try to forget everything else. It’s hard when your mind is very busy but the more you practice this, the easier it will get.
Practice self-care - remember to take some time out every once in a while and do something you enjoy. This could be going for a massage, walking to a favourite spot, listening to music, catching up with a favourite television programme, or seeing friends. Doing something you enjoy can relax a person.
Eat well - try not to skip meals because when your blood sugar drops you’re likely to feel tired, irritable and depressed which can all exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Ensure you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that will give you plenty of energy and leave you feeling ready to face the world.
Limit alcohol and caffeine - both of these can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
Make sure you get enough sleep - when you’re stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest. Lack of sleep also leaves you feeling irritable and it’s more difficult to concentrate.
Exercise - exercise helps to release endorphins which make us feel good, helping a person feel energised and relaxed about any concerns.
Speak to a professional - speaking to a professional can help a person identify why they feel so anxious and teach them tools to overcome it.
If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering from anxiety, please feel free to visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programme page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available.