What Is Anxiety?
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, be it a work, relationship or money problems for example, come and go. Anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to the sufferer.
Anxiety can make a person imagine that things in their life are worse than they really are, and prevent them from confronting their fears. Often they 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. Or just the build up of stress from too much stress going on at one time.
However, some people don’t have an identifiable cause for their anxiety and this causes them some distress. One way of thinking about your anxiety is to imagine your stress levels as being like a bucket of water - If we keep adding stressors to the bucket, even tiny ones like the school run or commuting to work, over time it fills up until one day it overflows.
This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains why sometimes it can seem to come out of the blue with no significant trigger. However, what has happened is that the trigger was just a very small stressor that tipped us over the edge and allowed our bucket to overflow. What we need is a leaky bucket with lots of holes in to reduce your overall stress levels. Each one of these holes could be something positive that you do to manage your anxiety, such as yoga, exercise, reading, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.
Symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person. People often experience physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they feel anxious or stressed.
Have I got Anxiety?
Some of the most 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
Some of the most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are:
Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
Thinking that you might die
Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
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
Anxiety Speicialist Sarah Steventon is experienced in dealing with clients experiencing Anxiety conditions such as:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Panic Attacks / Panic Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Post Natal Depression/Anxiety
Compulsive Skin Picking
Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder
If you are suffering with Anxiety, or you want to make an appointment to see Sarah at the Clinic please do get in touch using the details on the contact page and we will get back to you within 24 hours.
Anxiety Treatment / Therapy For Anxiety
Any anxiety problems arise because of chronic levels of stress. Stress is any pressure or accumulation of pressures - physical or psychological, that is 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 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.
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.
I work with a range of techniques to help you feel better as quickly as possible, and avoid the 'black and white thinking' and help you to change your perspective on whatever it is you fear - in effect, neutralise it.
However you are experiencing anxiety, I work with you to master your feelings, conquer your own anxious behaviour, and overcome the anxiety to stop the negative effect it is having on you.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, so you may be suffering with Generalised anxiety Disorder (GAD) - which can have lots of psychological and physical symptoms. Or you maybe having panic attacks and been told you have 'Panic disorder'.
Phobias are actually another form of anxiety disorder, which might seem strange, but its true.
One of the most debilitating is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which can completely take over your life.
At the extreme end, constant high levels of arousal are generated by post-traumatic stress. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a truly terrifying experience - however this can be resolved, both safely and quickly.
PTSD doesn't just affect people who have served in the military, or worked in the forces - PTSD can be brought on by any trauma that is experienced.
Resolving trauma of any kind, including abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional, or a trauma from an accident or an attack can be done just as effectively.
All of these events can be worked on without the need to actually disclose what the events was. The work can be done without the need to go over the event or events again - which means there is no need to talk about the detail. It is an extremely fast, effective way to help clients who are experiencing any kind of psychological distress.
If you are suffering from stress, or feel you maybe experiencing anxiety or having panic attacks, or dealing with OCD, anger issues, depression or trauma - Sarah Steventon is an Anxiety Specialist.
Sarah sees clients on a one-to-one basis at her Specialist Anxiety Clinic in Leamington Spa, Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick.
Teenage Anxiety - Exam performance - Exam Nerves - Improve Grades
The anxiety children and teenagers suffer when at school and or college, especially when preparing and taking exams can be overwhelming.
Exam nerves are similar to those experienced by people undergoing job interviews, sporting or artistic performances and the like, and as with any kind of pressure, stress and nerves can get in the way of a good performance.
Once a certain level of stress is reached, the fight-or-flight response comes into play, adrenaline and cortisol are released, and this is where the problems start.
This is the body's survival mechanism kicking in - and although a very clever system, which is useful to keep you safe and make sure you react instantly by stopping your logical brain overthinking a situation, which can save your life.....but it also means you don't have access to your logical brain when you need it.....so all the hard work and revision can go out the window!
Sometimes I see a children and teenagers for exam nerves, and that is all they need - but sometimes it becomes clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are much deeper issues going on.
This can be any number of things, problems at home or bullying for example, or just other issues that are part and parcel of teenage life....
If the anxiety is deep-seated, then more work may be required and I always recommend that we do the work together - otherwise the issues or the anxiety may return and cause problems in other ways.
Either way, we’ll know by the end of session one - and then I can formulate the session plan.
Phobias and Fears
A phobia is an irrational fear of an object or situation that would not normally trouble most people. As the name suggests, simple/specific phobias are phobias that are about specific objects or situations. They can be quite distinct in nature and easily identified. For example, fear of spiders, fear of thunderstorms or fear of heights.
Any phobia may produce a state of panic when the sufferer is confronted with the phobic object/situation. A wide variety of physical symptoms are experienced such as nausea, increased heartbeat and jelly legs. For this reason, many people with simple or specific phobias enter into a pattern of avoidance which can vary enormously in severity from someone who would not want to touch a spider, to someone who cannot even look at a picture of a spider, and therefore has to vet everything they come into contact with. The latter demonstrates just how debilitating even a simple phobia can be.
Some phobias don't have any rational explanation - for example Claustrophobia is the fear of being enclosed in a small space or room and unable to escape. It can be triggered by many situations or stimuli, including lifts crowded to capacity, windowless rooms, hotel rooms with closed doors and sealed windows, small cars and even tight-necked clothing.
It is typically classified as an anxiety disorder, which can result in a panic attack. The onset of claustrophobia is generally caused by an event where you were once in a confined space and the survival part of the brain logs this as threatening, and when a similar circumstance is experienced the brain pattern matches back to what is previously logged as a traumatic event, and this causes the symptom.
So traumatic experiences appear to play a role in some people's claustrophobia as can childhood experiences as well - children left in a room by accident or punished by being placed in a closet seem more at risk, which would indicate that for some people it develops as its own condition.
Similarly, for some, claustophobia develops and acts more like other types of phobias, such as a fear of spiders. There are many that have a fear of small spaces that doesn't appear to have been developed by any traumatic experience, but do seem to show up at a young age. Phobias can also develop by seeing someone else in your life with the same phobia - which means if your parent was ever afraid in a small space, you may be too. Again this is data being stored in the part of your brain, which is essentially a 'pattern recognition data system'.
Not all forms of anxiety have a clear cause, and the cause itself may not always matter. There are those that develop anxiety disorders for no apparent reason, as well as those that develop them through a series of unrelated events.
For example, you can develop something like claustrophobia from what seems like a completely unrelated event. If you had an anxiety attack in a party, and then left the party in an elevator, your mind may associate the anxiety with the elevator even though your anxiousness was caused by a party.
The good news is that the cause does not always matter. There is ample evidence that anxiety, no matter its cause, can be treated with the right anxiety reduction strategies. So those living with claustrophobia, and other phobias can address the condition and those that cause it, with the right techniques and strategies.
Listed below are just some of the common phobias, but if you have any kind of phobia that you would like to deal with then get in touch.
Arachnephobia or Arachnophobia- Fear of spiders
Acrophobia- Fear of heights
Aichmophobia- Fear of needles or pointed objects
Apiphobia- Fear of bee
Aviophobia or Aviatophobia- Fear of flying
Cynophobia- Fear of dogs or rabies
Dentophobia- Fear of dentists
Emetophobia- Fear of vomiting
Entomophobia- Fear of insects
Erythrophobia - Fear of Blushing
Perinatal anxiety and Perinatal OCD
You may have been told you have Perinatal anxiety, which is the term that can be used by medical teams to describe anxiety experienced during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth.
You might hear it called, prenatal or antenatal anxiety if you experience anxiety during pregnancy or postnatal anxiety if you experience it after giving birth.
You might be experiencing tense muscles and headaches, pins and needles, feeling light headed or dizzy, faster breathing, sweating or hot flushes, a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, needing the toilet more frequently, or less frequently, churning in the pit of your stomach. All of these symptoms are what we feel when we are suffering with anxiety.
You might also be experiencing panic attacks, A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress and can have symptoms such as a pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea (feeling sick), chest pains, feeling unable to breathe, shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly, feeling like you’re not connected to your body, fear of losing control, or you are going crazy, or you might be dying.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a term is often misused in daily conversation – for example, you might hear people talk about being 'a bit OCD' if they like things to be neat and tidy, but in reality it is a lot more complex and serious.
Perinatal OCD is when you experience OCD during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.
OCD has two main parts, the obsessions – intrusive thoughts, ideas or urges that repeatedly appear in your mind. For example, thinking that you have been contaminated by dirt and germs, or worrying that you might hurt someone.
The other part is the compulsions – repetitive activities that you feel you have to do. This might be something like repeatedly washing something to make sure it’s clean, or repeating a specific phrase in your head to prevent harm from coming to a loved one.
The aim of a compulsion is to relieve the intense anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts. However, the process of repeating these compulsions is often distressing in itself.
Hypnotherapy, as most people know, is working with the subconscious.....but just what IS the subconscious and what does hypnotherapy actually do?
The subconscious is really a part of the physical brain. It receives and processes data and doesn’t have any emotional connection to that data. A lot of it is programmable so we can modify its processing instructions. We can usefully call this the pattern recognition matrix.
Why does the subconscious have us doing things we would rather not do?
‘The subconscious’ is just a database of the patterns of everything we have ever experienced, which perceives all input simply as data to be tested. If the data is recognised, this part of the brain initiates a ‘best match’ response before we are consciously aware of it.
Contrary to what is believed, ‘the subconscious’ actually does not always try to keep us safe, but merely reacts to a stimulus or sequence of stimuli with a response that has been employed before under similar circumstances – and because you are not dead (i.e. it led to survival) such response would be ‘tagged’ as valid. This then can become a behaviour pattern.
What we usually consider as subconscious process is actually all to do with the speed of the physical brain. The ‘Pattern Recognition Matrix’ of the physical brain simply recognises input patterns, or creates new patterns if something new is encountered. To the brain, it is nothing more than data and is neither good nor bad. It doesn’t make value judgments at this stage (the ‘input’ stage). It is in the later part of the process, when the patterns are consciously understood, that judgement occurs – and even that is dependent on other learnt patterns.
The problem is that although judgement might not be instigated at this point, motor action and other responses are.
Accessing the pattern, means we can make the changes need give an alternative and more acceptable 'normal' response to the input of data (basically the experience of something) next time round.
So Hypnotherapy is utilised to change response for many different issues and problems - getting rid of old patterns.
Sarah is also a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist, so is also able to use Hypnosis to help you with any issue you are experiencing.
The organisation Anxiety UK - states
" Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Hypnosis allows the subject to experience often quite deep levels of relaxation and so helps to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. It is often used alongside classical behavioural therapies such as ‘systematic desensitisation’. Two important elements of this therapy are the ability to clearly imagine something that makes you feel anxious and then to attain a deeply relaxed state. Hypnosis helps to achieve both of these more easily and quickly than many other forms of treatment."
Anxiety symptoms are varied. At their mildest, we might experience butterflies in the stomach. But more severe symptoms can include shaking, a racing heart, hot flushes, chest pains, breathlessness, dizziness, pins and needles and a sensation of feeling ‘unreal’ in the company of others.
Though often very intense, these symptoms are completely harmless and are actually part of our genetic instinct for self-preservation. The power of hypnotherapy lies in allowing you to identify and then deal with the triggers that cause these responses in the first place.
As a society, we’ve become quite clever at dealing with the symptoms of stress. We learn breathing exercises or subconsciously manoeuvre ourselves into situations or environments where we feel protected from what causes us to be anxious in the first place – even when we’re not aware, at least consciously, of what those triggers actually are.
For example, if we feel anxiety most acutely at work, then we may have a tendency to arrange meetings to take us out of the office regularly.
Or maybe we find ourselves heading to the kitchen to make a cup of tea more frequently than we might otherwise, or to the bathroom in order to find solitude and stretch out the time when we don’t have to face colleagues or managers.
In the most acute cases, work-related anxiety can lead to people taking more and more time off sick and this can often lead to long-term absence and a damaging effect on career prospects.
Anxiety can also have its root causes in situations which are challenging socially, such as parties or functions where we are expected to interact with strangers, or where we are expected to perform in front of others. And so we avoid the confrontation with our anxiety by crying off at the last moment or making excuses to leave early.
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.
Personal finances are another very common trigger for anxiety. When we’re experiencing financial hardship – whether it’s of our own making or not – those feelings of helplessness morph into a fear of facing up to the issues at play. And so in a vain attempt to alleviate the symptoms – or to avoid having to think about it at all – we avoid looking at our bank balance or opening bank statements and invent stories to tell ourselves about a new job or a pay rise or a sale on eBay that will make everything all right again.
We have become less good at working to identify what is causing us to be anxious and then finding ways of dealing with that problem at its root.
Whatever the cause of your anxiety, hypnotherapy can help you to overcome the challenges you face and set you on the path to a happier and less challenging life.
Often, anxiety can be the physical and emotional manifestation of a trauma earlier in life – something which we may not even consciously recognise as influencing our emotional wellbeing. In some cases, this trauma has had such a significant impact on us that our clever subconscious has buried it out of sight.
We can work with you to easily identify which therapy is going to be the most effective solution for you to help you move forward.