Anxiety is a healthy feeling, and it is a normal response to stressors in our lives. Everybody feels anxious from some time to time.
Excessive worrying or high anxiety occurs when individuals are constantly worried for no apparent reason or when the level of anxiety is inappropriate for the situation. People with high anxiety might expect bad things to happen and might think of the worst-case scenario.
Highly anxious people often worry about social situations, health, family, or money. For example, individuals are constantly worried that they might catch a disease, or fear that they might lose their jobs or might feel not financially secure.
- It can improve performance.
It never gets boring when you feel anxious and the chances of losing your motivation lowers. Anxiety can help to keep focus and not get distracted. You can work or study very well until you get things done efficiently with healthy amounts of anxiety.
- It can help you to be on top of things.
Anxiety might help with being better prepared and it would allow less room for mistakes. If you need to catch an early flight, your anxiety will help with making sure that you packed everything the night before, have your passport ready and you have plenty of time to make the journey to the airport.
- It can help to discover your values and wishes.
The anxiety alarm system would be activated if you find yourself in situations that don’t suit your preferences well. If you could reflect on it, it might help to discover about your choices, values and wishes. If you go on a holiday with friends and they don’t want to have plans and be spontaneous, your anxiety might make you feel uncomfortable and help you to come up with plans. You might then discover than you would prefer having an itinerary plan rather than spontaneity or a mix between these two.
Anxiety can occur for many different reasons, but it usually results from the combination of more than one stressor. Periods of high anxiety can happen once or might become chronic. Not everybody develops an anxiety disorder after a period of high anxiety. Environmental factors, genetic predispositions, complications due to other diseases, and irregularities in brain chemistry are among the main triggers of anxiety. Problems at school, workplace, family and social environment, relationship problems and traumatic events are the main causes of high anxiety. Having various anxiety disorders in the family might also make people more prone to high anxiety. In addition, anxiety might also occur due to other medical conditions. Conditions such as complex surgeries and long recovery periods might also cause various types of anxiety.
- Believing that catastrophizing is going to help you
Thinking of the worse as scenario also as known as catastrophizing is a common strategy that we all use to protect ourselves. If we can predict the worse outcome, we can be better protected, right? The strategy might help if you face the worst-case scenario. If not, you would be wasting your time and energy meticulously thinking and planning how to deal with something that is not going to happen. Imagine using this strategy for all the challenges in life, and how exhausted you would be.
On the other hand, we never think of the best-case scenario. How would it be like to plan what you would do after you win the lottery each time you but a lottery ticket? You wouldn’t do that because it would be a waste of time to do that before winning the lottery. The same thing applies to the worst-case scenarios.
It is a much better strategy to think of a middle case scenario, not the best and not the worst. In life, the best-case or the worst-case scenarios rarely come true. It usually falls to the middle. If the best case comes true, you wouldn’t waste energy and would be surprisingly happy. If the worse comes true, you can adjust.
- Having many alternative plans
You are always prepared. You have a plan B and C and D even a plan Z if everything goes wrong. It is good to be prepared. However, over preparing might be detrimental because it would be wasted. It is not different than preparing food for 10 people when you have 4 guests, the rest of the food would be wasted. It is quite helpful to have a plan B and I believe it is the right amount of preparation we need.
- Keeping anxiety as a company
Some people with long term anxiety tell me that fife would be weird without constant overthinking and worrying. It almost feels like it keeps them company.
It is true that if you had anxiety for a while, you probably keep worrying and overthinking majority of the time. You are now unable to figure out what you would do without it. Our mind tends to wander. It might not be possible to stop thinking, it would be weird. Instead, you can focus on more neutral thoughts, being more present without anxiety rather than having a blank mind.
Individuals with high anxiety cannot help themselves but continue to worry, even if they know that there is nothing to worry about and they tend to overreact. Most of the time, they are aware that their worries are excessive, but they cannot control their worries and cannot calm down. They are known as “overly pessimistic”. Fatigue, attention deficit and difficulty with concentrating, being easily startled by the slightest noise, not being able to fall asleep and waking up frequently at night are other important symptoms.
GAD is often accompanied by some somatic symptoms that appear as if there is a physical illness. These symptoms are physical complaints such as unexplained fatigue, headache and muscle aches, difficulty in swallowing, tremors and twitches, sweating, intolerance, nausea, drowsiness, and hot flashes.
It is seen in 5-6 out of every 100 people and it can occur at any stage of life.
Not everybody who is constantly worried or struggling to cope with anxiety has an anxiety disorder. If the high anxiety persists more than a significant amount of time and interferes with the daily activities, it may be a sign of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
- High anxiety for no reason
- Poor concentration
- Sleeping problems
- Irritability and nervousness
- Muscle aches, headaches
Generalized anxiety disorder and high anxiety can be treated with talking therapies and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy is among the most effective treatments for anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help people to cope with the feeling of anxiety and replace these feelings and thoughts with the ones appropriate to the situation,
Some people might need medication to help them with the anxiety. If you feel like you might need medication, it is best to consult the GP. Antidepressants are often used; it is aimed to reduce the feeling of anxiety and fear and to reach a calmer mood. Medications used in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder do not have any side effects such as addiction.
The main purpose of the anxiety treatment is to reduce the level of anxiety experienced and to ensure that people can continue their daily life without interruptions caused by anxiety. Our bodies have an alarm system which warns us against threats so that we can protect ourselves. In case of the anxiety disorders, the alarm system gives an error. The goal is to help clients to see how their anxiety mechanism is alerted by a false alarm. Many people with high anxiety might begin avoiding anxiety inducing situations to reduce anxiety levels. For example, a person with high anxiety might give up exercising to protect oneself against a minor heart palpitation or avoid meeting new people not to feel embarrassed.
One of the most important elements of treatment is psychoeducation, which teaches people the function of anxiety and how to keep it under control. Knowing the causes and consequences of the problem and possible treatment options might help you feel safe.
To cope with the daily stressors, it might be helpful to build stress management skills, learning relaxation techniques, exercising, and receiving social support. Self-care practices such as walking, exercising, team sports, meditation, breathing exercises, long baths, and yoga can help control anxiety symptoms and alleviate anxiety. Having a social support network where people can share their worries and concerns and receive emotional support or participating in support groups will also be helpful to reduce anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia refers to the intense feelings of anxiety, fear and shame that arise due to the fear of being evaluated and judged negatively by others in social situations.
It is totally understandable for someone to feel anxious in a novel or more difficult social situations more than the others going on a first date or attending a job interview, but in social anxiety disorder, fear and anxiety would cause the individual to avoid events to a degree that can disrupt their life. Social phobia might affect an individual’s daily routine, work, school, friendships, dating or other activities.
Social anxiety manifest itself in different forms and shapes. It might be in the form of performance anxiety such making a presentation, or it can simply result from attending a social event, meeting new people or even eating in public or shopping or going to school or work.
Social anxiety disorder symptoms might begin in childhood or in adulthood.
- Fear of being judged negatively in social situations
- Worrying about embarrassing yourself
- Fear of going into new situations or talking to new people
- Fear of your anxiety being noticeable by other people
- Avoidance of social situations which would trigger anxiety or attending to such events with high levels of anxiety
- Feeling anxious in anticipation of the social event
- Overthinking and analysing your performance and focusing on flaws after a social situation
There are some research outcomes showing that social anxiety disorder is a learned behavior. Some individuals may develop social phobia later in life after an uncomfortable or embarrassing social situation in childhood. There is also a correlation between parents who display anxious behaviors in social situations or who control their children more intensely or who are overprotective tend to develop social anxiety disorder more. It has been observed that children who experience negative experiences such as being rejected or bullied are more prone to social anxiety disorder. Other negative events such as family conflict, trauma or abuse can also be associated with social anxiety disorder.
The most common form of psychotherapy for Social Anxiety Disorders is Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy. In the first phase of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for social anxiety, the focus is on recognizing the feelings of anxiety and bodily reactions, understanding what kind of thoughts, and thinking errors cause anxiety, and developing healthier thinking strategies and coping tools. In behavioural therapy, on the other hand, there are methods that can be structured differently for each client role plays, relaxation training, social skills training and exposure to social situations.
I am an accredited counsellor, CBT and Schema Therapist. I mostly work with people who had a difficult childhood such as experiencing trauma, being bullied, or lacking emotional support and now experience depression, panic and anxiety, difficulties in relationships, low self-esteem, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and body image issues.
I help people with a wide range of psychological problems at my private practice in central London and offer online sessions, if you are unable to attend in person.