Feeling a little anxious or worried is a natural response to certain situations. The “fight or flight” hormones which can help us to escape when we feel we are in danger can be helpful in the short term; making us more alert and getting our muscles prepared to fight or run away. Sometimes though people feel extremely worried or anxious for longer periods without a specific threat, or the response is disproportional to the situation. For some, the ongoing feeling of anxiety can prevent them from living their life as they want and it may be they have an anxiety disorder. In this Blog Post, we look at the question of Treating Anxiety Without Medication.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety, as a disorder, is when someone feels an overwhelming sense of worry continuously or repeatedly for several months. It is different to the short term worry someone might feel about a job interview or sitting an exam. If you have anxiety you may feel that your thoughts and feelings are out of control and it is causing you distress.
Anxiety is a recognised mental disorder that has a significant impact on the daily lives of many. It’s not known for sure how many people experience it, but a 2014 survey by NHS England suggests that at any given time as many as one in six people in England have a Common Mental Disorder (which includes depression as well as the different types of anxiety).
Treating Anxiety and how it presents itself
There are a number of types of anxiety including:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder which is the most commonly diagnosed form of anxiety. People experience the symptoms and feelings of anxiety about a wide range of situations and issues rather than having a specific trigger or worry, .
- Panic Disorder is when a person experiences regular and repeated panic attacks. Each panic attack may only last a short period, but they are characterised by feelings of intense fear and strong physical reactions.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when a person experiences strong and persistent thoughts (obsessions) and/ or compulsions to act in a particular way for instance they may need to complete repeated actions to help manage their thoughts (although these rituals only help in the short term).
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety which develops after a specific event a person found terrifying. The person may have been harmed or have felt that their life was threatened.
- Phobias are a group of disorders where the anxiety mainly occurs in well defined situations leading to them being avoided. They can involve an intense or irrational fear of something like an animal or place.
- Health anxiety is when someone constantly worries about health to, they may convince themselves they have symptoms of a serious illness despite reassurance from doctors and they can believe medical tests may have missed something.
- Social anxiety is a fear associated with social situations. People might avoid meeting new people, starting conversations or generally doing anything which might involve being watched by other people.
How Do You Know If You Have Anxiety?
Just like there are many different types of anxiety, people may experience it in different ways. It might affect you physically, how you behave and what you think. Symptoms of anxiety can also co-exist with depression and other mental disorders.
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Trouble concentrating and forgetfulness
- Feeling tearful
- Obsessive Thoughts
- Loss of Appetite
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Easily Tired
- Muscle Tension
- Sleep Disturbance
- Not being able to Relax
- Avoiding New Experiences
- Constantly Checking Things (Compulsive Behaviours)
- Not Taking Care of Yourself
Treating Anxiety Without Medication?
Many people with anxiety aren’t formally diagnosed by their doctor and you don’t need to have seen your GP before seeking treatment with us. Lots of people, even with mild symptoms of anxiety, can benefit from therapy.
While medication can help those experiencing anxiety, many people find that therapy helps them to understand their condition better and to manage the triggers when they emerge. The NHS usually recommends psychological treatment before prescribing medication and NICE recommends Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT) for Anxiety.
At Hope Therapy we offer a range of options to help manage anxiety including counselling to identify the underlying causes, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
Counselling involves talking about your feelings to a therapist who will listen without judgment. We don’t usually give advice, but rather we allow you to understand your feelings better by encouraging you to talk which can help you to see your thoughts in a different way.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy involves supporting you to identify your current thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours to help challenge them and to develop coping strategies. By breaking down overwhelming fears into smaller parts it can make them easier to change and to stop patterns repeating. Studies have found that CBT is one of the most effective treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder with the benefits lasting longer than medication.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy works well as a relapse management programme. It uses mindfulness to help you become more aware of what you are thinking and how you are feeling. This allows you to better apply the principles of cognitive therapy.
If you have found this article on Treating Anxiety Without Medication interesting, you may like to take a look at the resources below.
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- Managing Stress in the Most Stressful of Times
- Coronavirus and Emotional Wellbeing
- Modern Evidence meets Ancient Wisdom