Anxiety is a widespread mental health problem affecting 5% of the UK population. However, the number of people experiencing this anxiety has been on the increase in recent times.

The information on this page focuses on Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), but there are many different types of anxiety, including:

So what is it like to experience anxiety, and how can it be overcome?

What is anxiety?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. We all experience situations from time to time that make us fearful and apprehensive. These are natural reactions that are important for how we function as human beings. However, for some people, their anxiety can become almost constant, may have no apparent cause, or is disproportionate and excessive to the concern. It can become overwhelming in these cases, and life becomes a constant state of fear, worry, and dread. Eventually, if left untreated, anxiety dominates a persons thinking so much that it can interfere with typical day to day functioning and may lead to avoidance of regular activities. 

The difference between “normal” worrying and generalised anxiety disorder is that the worrying involved is:

  • Excessive
  • Intrusive
  • Persistent
  • Disruptive

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may vary, but can include:

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • Irritability
  • A sense of dread
  • Feeling constantly on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feelings of depression
  • Feeling sick or diarrhoea
  • Noticeably strong, fast, or irregular heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth 

What causes anxiety?

Multiple factors are likely involved. However, the exact cause of GAD is not clear. Research suggests that anxiety may be caused by:

  • a genetic predisposition to anxiety – if you have a close relative with GAD, you are five times more likely to develop the condition yourself. 
  • The brain chemicals (serotonin and noradrenaline) involved in the control of mood become unbalanced
  • Overactivity in areas of the brain that control emotions and behaviour
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse, or bullying
  • having a long-term health condition that causes ongoing pain
  • having a history of drug or alcohol misuse

People can also develop anxiety for no apparent reason.

How are Children Affected and How can I support them?

Children can also be affected in much the same way adults are, although it can be harder for them to express their feelings depending on their age.

Here are some ways you can help an anxious child:

  • Spend time talking to your child about their worries and let them know that you understand how they feel. 
  • Depending on your child’s age, it may help explain what anxiety is and the physical effects on our bodies and that it will come and go.
  • Help your child to recognise the signs of anxiety themselves and learn methods to manage their anxiety, such as breathing relaxation techniques
  • Let your child understand that they can seek help when they need it 
  • Try to stick to regular daily routines when possible as this can be reassuring 
  • If there is a considerable change coming, like a house move, prepare your child by talking through what will happen and why
  • For younger children, distraction can be helpful, so they don’t dwell on the issue that is causing the anxiety
  • Try not to be overprotective or anxious yourself

Where can I go for support?

Before you approach clinical professionals, it is worth trying self-help techniques first, such as:

  • Learning relaxation techniques
  • Talking to a friend or relative 
  • Joining self-help or online support groups
  • Other methods that may help, such as exercise, reading, and listening to music.

It is also advisable to cut down on alcohol, caffeine and stop smoking to reduce anxiety.

If the anxiety continues, there are also self-help books that can help by delivering the best evidence-based methods like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Self-help books are available as part of treatment with the NHS. 

CBT is also suitable for children and is a structured process supported by parents or carers.

Should you or your child find that the above techniques don’t reduce the anxiety, we recommend you attend an appointment with your GP and explain the symptoms. The NHS has excellent mental health services, but it can take time to find the most effective pathway.

If you are not accessing the therapy, you need or quickly enough book a free 15-minute phone consultation with our team to consider our private mental health services.

What therapies can help?

Several talking therapies are effective as a treatment for anxiety, including:

We offer the above therapies to help treat anxiety and offer a free 15-minute private and confidential telephone consultation to chat through what you’re experiencing and how we may help.

Book a free consultation


What therapy is best for anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely used approach to treat anxiety. Research has shown it is effective at treating Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobias and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD).

Can Psychologists help with anxiety?

Clinical Psychologists are highly specialised and trained to treat anxiety in its various types. They are trained to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and a variety of other effective treatments for anxiety where a different approach is necessary.

Can you ever be cured of anxiety?

Yes, anxiety can be cured in the sense that the symptoms of anxiety can be alleviated and this can be temporary or last for several years.

How long does therapy take for anxiety?

The length of time can vary on a case by case basis and depending on the frequency of sessions. Typically therapy would take between 6 – 20 sessions taking place weekly or fortnightly, each session lasting around 50 – 60 minutes. 

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