Anxiety Therapy London Guide
As a psychotherapist in London, I’ve worked with many clients who experience the effects of long term anxiety. Living with anxiety can be really challenging and left untreated can become debilitating.
It’s not just the fast pace and stress of London life that can make you feel anxious – anxiety can manifest for a variety of reasons:
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling. It’s an emotional state with physical symptoms, which happen at the same time. Anxiety is a reaction to the threat of danger or a stressful situation, where the body goes into a state of high alert.
It’s a normal emotion, and a natural response designed to move you out of danger as quickly as possible, before returning to normal. Anxiety becomes problematic when it’s experienced too often and for too long.
Anxiety can be experienced in combination with other mental health conditions, such as depression. It can be effectively treated with talking therapies such as psychotherapy and counselling.
Signs and Symptoms of anxiety
There’s many signs of anxiety, both mental and physical. If you’re suffering from one or more of the anxiety symptoms below, and they’re not going away, you may have chronic anxiety:
Nausea and dizziness
Headaches or stomachaches
Being easily fatigued
Quick or shallow breathing
Increased or irregular heart rate
Pins and needles
Sweating or trembling
Shortness of breath
Unexplained pains or sensations
A dry mouth
Sense of dread
Feeling of impending doom
Restless or on edge
Poor decision making
Feeling out of control
Feelings of worry
Fear of loosing control
Fear of heart attack or death
How anxiety works – the fight or flight response
When we encounter a stressful situation, where we feel inadequate in meeting the demands required of us, the body goes into fight or flight mode.
The body releases a cocktail of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepares the body for either fighting or running. The heart beats faster, pumping blood to the skeletal muscles.
Blood glucose becomes concentrated for extra energy, and more air flows in and out of the lungs. Non urgent functions such as digestion and immune system responses are put on temporary hold.
This state should last for up to around an hour before returning to normal.
The problem we have in our complex modern society, is too many stressful situations. While exams and job interviews aren’t matters of life and death, they’re still stressful, and our bodies react by providing us with the emergency resources to fight or run.
This can leave the body and mind in a state of chronic stress and anxiety, with raised levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. Sometimes that can feel like a low level background stress. But it can also turn into severe anxiety, with constant fear, panic attacks and hyper-vigilance.
What causes anxiety?
People experiencing the same symptoms of anxiety can have them for different reasons. Here are some of the causes of anxiety:
- A difficult childhood
- Too much stress or external demands
- Other anxious family members
- A recent or historic traumatic event
- Difficulties relating to other people
- A problematic relationship with your partner
- A break-up or a bereavement
- A job loss or sudden life change
- A serious illness or health condition
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Financial instability
The good news is that anxiety can be treated, and has effective outcomes with anxiety counselling, psychotherapy and therapies such as CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy).
What are the types of anxiety?
Anxiety can take many forms. Some of them are referred to as anxiety disorders, but that doesn’t mean they’re permanent, or can’t be effectively treated. The following guide to the types of anxiety can be useful to see what might be affecting you, and to work out the best course of treatment.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a very common type of anxiety, where you’re frequently anxious, or always worried about what might happen in the future. It can include catastrophising, where you imagine future events, such as an exam or stage performance with the worst possible outcome.
The symptoms of generalised anxiety are different for everyone, and they can have different causes, requiring individual treatment plans.
Panic disorder is more widely known as panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense experience of fear and dread, which feels like it’s coming out of nowhere. It’s often accompanied by physical symptoms, and the fear of loosing control, and dying.
Panic attacks can have specific external triggers connected to an unresolved trauma, or can occur without any obvious reason. Sometimes the fear of having a panic attack can be enough to trigger one.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has two sides to it. The obsessive side involves intrusive thoughts and images which you’d prefer not to have. There may also be obsessive urges or doubts which repeatedly assert themselves.
The compulsive side includes repetitive actions or rituals which you feel compelled to carry out. A few of these symptoms may not be a problem if they just occur from time to time. But if they’re affecting your quality of life, work or relationships, there are good treatment options available
Health anxiety (hypochondria)
Health anxiety is related to Obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s the worry that you have a serious illness, or are at risk of getting one. This is sometimes without experiencing any physical symptoms.
It’s not uncommon to be checking your body for signs of illness, and checking health articles on the internet. The anxiety experienced through hypochondria can cause real physical symptoms, such as unexplained sensations or pains throughout the body, which further perpetuate the idea of being seriously ill.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the anxiety stems from a traumatic event or series of events which occurred in the past. PTSD can cause hyper-vigilance, where you’re always on the lookout for danger and hyper-sensitivity to loud noises and unexpected movements.
It can often be combined with panic attacks, feelings of shame or guilt, lack of confidence and low self esteem. PTSD can also lead to avoiding places, situations or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
A phobia is an intense fear of objects, such as germs, spiders, snakes rats or dogs. I can also be an overwhelming fear of a specific place or situation, such as the dentist.
Phobias can severely restrict the quality of your life if you’re having to constantly avoid what’s causing the fear. They often develop as young adults, as a learned response from other family members.
Phobias can be treated with a mix of anxiety therapy and exposure therapy, where you gently and safely familiarise yourself with the object of fear in incremental stages.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety, also called social phobia, is a fear or phobia of social situations. It often originates from childhood, sometimes easing during adulthood. Social anxiety can be debilitating, is it has a big impact on quality of life.
Social anxiety can cause you to worry about, or even avoid, normal social activities, like having conversations with strangers, going out to eat or drink, or speaking to workmates. There’s a fear of being criticised which can lead to feelings of nausea, dizziness, sweating or panic attacks.
Is CBT good for treating anxiety?
CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy is a method of identifying and changing your thought patterns. As you replace less negative thoughts with more helpful thoughts, it can have a positive affect on your emotions and behaviour.
CBT is evidence based, and there are many studies demonstrating it’s effectiveness for reducing or stopping the symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and OCD. It can be combined with psychotherapy for a deeper exploration of the root cause of the anxiety.
When do you need anxiety therapy?
Anxiety, in manageable doses, is a normal and healthy response in everyone. It becomes a problem when it goes on for too long, happens too often, and interferes with the quality of your life.
Have a look at these questions, and see if any of them resonate with you:
- Have you stopped going to social events that you’d like to be able to attend?
- Are you always worried, or ruminating on the past, present or future?
- Are you relationships at home or work suffering?
- Do you dread something terrible happening?
- Do you do things in a certain way to stop something bad happening?
- Are there activities you avoid because they make you anxious?
- Do you experience panic attacks with frightening physical symptoms?
- Do you drink or take drugs to numb anxiety?
Any of the above are familiar to you, you should consider speaking to an anxiety therapist, about anxiety therapy and anxiety counselling.
What does therapy for anxiety involve?
Anxiety therapy is a talking therapy, which takes place weekly at the same time. It can be online or in person at Wimpole Street, in central London.
In the first session, I’ll ask you about your anxiety – when it began, what you’re worrying about, and how often you worry. I’ll also ask about the physical symptoms you experience and whether you get panic attacks.
We’ll also look at any coping strategies you may have developed, what makes it better or worse, and how it’s affecting you. I’ll ask you about your relationships, and about other aspects of your life, your work, and your interests.
We’ll work together to develop strategies and tools to manage your anxiety. We’ll look at your thought processes, the benefits and cons of worrying, and the behaviours that your anxiety is causing.
I’ll show you ways of avoiding excessive rumination by staying in the present. And I’ll help you to connect with the body to feel relaxed and grounded when you’re in stressful situations.
We’ll also explore your life situation in some depth, to see what’s causing the anxiety. We might look to your past, your childhood environment, and any traumas or relationships that might be relevant. This is to ensure we get to the root of the anxiety, for lasting change.
As an integrative therapist, I’ll tailor the sessions to fit with your needs, drawing from CBT, psychotherapy, counselling and other therapy approaches.
The benefits of anxiety therapy
Anxiety therapy, and counselling for anxiety involves becoming more self aware and contributes to your own personal development. You’ll learn about yourself, gaining insight into how anxiety arises, and how you can live without it.
You’ll feel a sense of confidence, able to be yourself, and do the things that anxiety once held you back from.
You’ll learn a set of skills which will enable you to:
- stop panic attacks
- manage stressful situations with confidence
- identify the triggers for anxiety, and panic attacks
- stay relaxed and grounded in all situations
- identify the habitual thoughts which cause anxiety
With these tools, combined with a deep knowledge of yourself, you’ll be able to manage and prevent anxiety problems in the future.
How IN Therapy London can help
If you’ve been suffering from chronic anxiety, you’ll know how debilitating it is, and how it can have a big impact on your life and cause relationship difficulties.
It can be especially hard to reach out for help when the thought of having to speak to someone can bring up a lot of anxiety. If you’re seeking therapy, I suggest starting with an email, so we can book an initial consultation.
We can arrange to meet online or in person, where I can offer a safe and confidential space.