Anxiety tends to get a lot of bad press and is often labelled as a negative emotion. Anxiety itself isn’t negative but the meaning we attach to it and the way we respond to it can leave us in a vicious cycle of ongoing or worsening anxiety and this certainly does become a negative experience.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety. It’s a pretty huge topic but here are three facts about anxiety that are important to know.

1. Anxiety is Normal.

Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience at times. It is a human response that helps us to respond to threats and danger. Essentially, without anxiety, humankind wouldn’t have survived until now. However, sometimes we can feel anxious without a clear threat, or in response to imagined threats.

Imagined threats can include our worries and when we play out unpleasant scenarios – like walking into a meeting room and everyone staring and judging us – in our mind, and then feel anxious in response to this, even though it’s not happening.

Anxiety in small amounts is normal and part of being human. If we know this, it can feel less scary and distressing. Anxiety becomes problematic, or a disorder, if it starts to interfere with our daily life and functioning for an extended period.

2. There are Several Types of Anxiety Disorder.

There are a number of different anxiety disorders that all have anxiety at their core, but with different themes or preoccupations. Some of the most common anxiety disorders include Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Health Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), phobias, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Each of these will have varying symptoms and may also have different causes. Sometimes anxiety feels all-encompassing and it can be hard to tune in to which disorder may best describe what you’re experiencing. It is possible to struggle with more than one at a time. Knowing the disorder helps inform treatment options as the approach for each is different. Having a name for a problem can often offer some relief in itself as it tells us there is an explanation for the way we are feeling.

Speaking with a qualified mental health professional can be a good starting point to identifying and understanding the problem.

3. Anxiety is Treatable.

Anxiety disorders are treatable and recovery is possible. If you’ve struggled for a long time, you may think anxiety is part of you. You may think your anxiety disorder is too complicated to treat, or it’s been there too long to be able to change. However, there is effective treatment that can help eliminate the symptoms of anxiety at best, or at the very least reduce symptoms so that they are more manageable and less disruptive to your life.

The clinically recommended treatment for most common mental health problems, which includes anxiety disorders, is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a form of therapy that helps you understand your experience of anxiety, what is maintaining the problem, and then learn strategies to change the way you think and behave to be able to improve the way you feel. Medication is also an option. This is often prescribed in addition to a recommendation for CBT.

If you are struggling with anxiety, you can reach out to us to find out more about CBT or contact your GP to discuss other treatment options available to you.