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Counselling for Anxiety
Anxiety can be a very normal and necessary response to life events, it allows us to be alert to threats, motivates us to act and improves our performance e.g. revising before an exam or preparing before an important meeting. However sometimes anxiety occurs in the absence of an impending event that would generally be considered ‘anxiety provoking’ and starts to interfere with your ability to do the things that you should or would like to be doing.
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Who is it for?
Do you struggle to relax? Does your heart frequently race or pound? Do you frequently feel dizzy, hot or unsteady? Do you often feel breathless when you haven’t exerted yourself? Do your hands tremble? Do often feel nervous? Do you frequently fear that the worst will happen? Do you worry about getting anxious? Do you avoid the things that make you anxious and is this staring to interfere with living your life? Do you worry about losing control or fainting? Do you worry about becoming ill or dying? Do you lie awake at night worrying?
If you find yourself answering yes to one or more of the above, you may be suffering from anxiety and may benefit from some counselling to help you to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms and get back to living your life as you would like to.
A Recent Testimonial
Annabelle - Islington“I began having therapy because I had been struggling with anxiety over a number of years. It had got to the point where I was agoraphobic, tearful and fearful of many everyday situations. Walking down the road to the shops or going for a five minute drive filled me with dread. Outwardly, people thought I was coping – I was good at putting on a brave face. I’d been successful academically, I was in a loving relationship, had a good career and a wonderful baby, but I felt my life was getting smaller and smaller. I didn’t confide in my family and friends because I felt ashamed and I even feared I might be going mad! Deciding to have therapy with Dr Gray is one of the most important decisions I have ever made. Her care, professionalism and insightfulness really have changed my life. I’d recommend therapy to anyone who feels they’re struggling – and the truth is we all do struggle in some way”.
How It Works?
Everyone’s experience of anxiety is different so the first step is for your Psychologist to get a good understanding of yours so that treatment can be specifically tailored to what you need. They will do this by asking you about when your anxiety started, what you worry about when you are anxious, what physical symptoms you have, what your anxiety makes you do and what it stops you doing and what makes your anxiety better and worse. Your Psychologist will also ask you a little bit about other aspects of your life, work, relationships, family and how you spend your leisure time in order to get a sense of you and what type of approach will suit you best.
Next your Psychologist will help you to reduce your symptoms of anxiety. This will involve a combination of techniques designed to not only lessen feelings of anxiety but also to build confidence and self-esteem which are essential in keeping anxiety at a manageable level. Techniques may include:
- Assessing the accuracy and helpfulness of thoughts that are causing you anxiety and replacing them with thoughts that encourage calmness and confidence
- Exercises to encourage your mind and body to relax and stay present rather than constantly ruminating about the past and worrying about the future
- Experiments to help you to build your confidence that you can successfully manage the situations that make you feel anxious
Once you feel in control of your anxiety your Psychologist will help you to identify why it developed in the first place and then devise ways for you to protect yourself against these influences ensuring that your symptoms do not return.
The final phase of treatment focuses on you consolidating the anxiety management skills you have learnt and building confidence in your ability to manage without therapy. This is likely to involve a number of tasks and challenges that will enable you to practice and test yourself.
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All of our Psychologists offer Anxiety counselling, click here to view the team.
What are the causes of Anxiety?
There is no single cause of anxiety but the following factors or combination of them may increase an individual’s vulnerability:
- Stress – High levels of stress, particularly over a prolonged period of time can deplete a person’s ability to cope with everyday challenges leaving them vulnerable to the development of anxiety.
- Catastrophic Thinking – A tendency to overestimate the possibility of something bad happening and underestimate ability to cope when it does will leave an individual vulnerable to symptoms of anxiety. Once someone begins to feel anxious they will be more able to access catastrophic thoughts which will further increase anxious feelings eventually resulting in either a panic attack or a less intense but more chronic experience of anxiety.
- Early Experiences – Experiences as a child that have led to the development of beliefs that the world is unsafe, that others cannot be trusted and that the individual is fragile either psychologically, physically or both can contribute to the onset of anxiety.
What are the different types of Anxiety?
There are 5 main types of Anxiety disorder:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This page contains information for people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobias. If you would like more information on the other types of Anxiety disorder please click the links above.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a persistent “free floating” anxiety where the individual worries about everyday things to such an extent that the level of worry is out of proportion with the source of the worry and interferes with the individual’s ability to do day to day things.
What is a Phobia?
A Phobia is where anxiety symptoms are triggered by something specific, these then lead a person to avoid that thing. For example:
Specific Phobia is the fear of a specific item e.g. fear of confined space (claustrophobia), fear of clowns (coulrophobia), fear of flying (aerophobia), fear of animals (zoophobia), fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of needles (aichmophobia)
Agoraphobia is triggered when someone is away from what they perceive as a safe place e.g. home.
Social Phobia is a fear of being negatively evaluated in social situation.
Do children require counselling if they have a Phobia?
Phobias are a normal part of development for children (common phobias include dogs, insects and bug, the dark, loud noises, monsters,) and are therefore more common in children than in adults. The prevalence of phobias in this age group is due to the fact that we naturally fear what is unfamiliar and what we believe we cannot cope with and children because of their limited experience of the world, more often find themselves in the position of facing something new or strange without the back catalogue of how to cope with this. Children are also more likely to mix up what is real with what is imagined making situations feels much more unpredictable and therefore dangerous; imagine what it would be like if you were never sure when a monster was suddenly going to appear.
As phobias are generally something that children grow out of as their confidence in the safety of the world and their ability to cope within it grows. Professional help is usually only indicated if a child is experiencing a level of distress or avoidance of the fear object/situation that is beginning to interfere with day to day life. In this case it is advisable to see a psychologist who will be able to determine whether the phobia is a normal part of growing up of a symptom of another more complex problem that needs attention e.g. at home or at school.
How common is Anxiety?
It is estimated that around 10% of the population in Britain suffer from anxiety. The problem is slightly more common in women than in men and amongst individuals in their 20s. The most common type of anxiety is Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
What is the treatment for Anxiety?
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government body which evaluates the effectiveness of treatments in healthcare recommends the following for anxiety:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Evidence suggests that CBT has the longest lasting effect and so where possible this should be offered to individuals experiencing anxiety. CBT focuses on changing a person’s anxious thoughts to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and teaching individuals a set of skills so that they are gradually able to face the experiences that they are avoiding thus building their confidence in their capacity to deal with challenges and improving their overall quality of life.
- SSRIs (antidepressants) can be used to treat anxiety but the longer terms effects are not as good as CBT, possibly because anxious thoughts are not addressed and coping skills not taught.
- Benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam) should not be prescribed for longer than 2-4 weeks for Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
For more information on how we can help you to overcome your anxiety please contact us.
Should you wish to find out more about Anxiety then you can check out our anxiety related blog articles here.