Women ‘nearly twice as likely to have anxiety’ as men

A report from Cambridge University says that as well as women, young people under 35 and those with health problems are particularly affected by anxiety.

Published in the journal Brain and Behavior, the global review of 48 studies found that more than 60 million people were affected by anxiety disorders every year in the EU and that women were twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. The author Olivia Remes, from the department of public health and primary care at the University of Cambridge, said anxiety disorders could make life extremely difficult.

“There has been a lot of focus on depression – which is important – but anxiety is equally important and debilitating; it can lead to the development of other diseases and psychiatric disorders, increase the risk for suicide and is associated with high costs to society.”
She added: “It is important for our health services to understand how common they are and which groups of people are at greatest risk.”

What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety can be seen as a customary, yet unpleasant part of life that can affect us all in different ways. If you are suffering from anxiety you may feel irritable, tense, nervous, uptight or wound up. Common in all these complaints is the overwhelming effect of the body producing too much adrenaline. This results in physical symptoms that can affect daily life.

The apprehension of anxiety, which causes palpitations and shaking, creates even more adrenaline, resulting in a vicious circle. For some people anxiety is a temporary state that passes when the source of stress subsides. For others it becomes a long-term condition that affects their lives and those of their loved ones.

It is normal and healthy to feel sad or worried about life and its problems and pressures. But when a worry casts a cloud over everyday life, you may be suffering from anxiety, depression or a mixture of the two.

When is the right time to seek help?

Anxiety is a problem that feeds on itself and is often covered up and dealt with in isolation. Help should be sought as soon as possible. If physical symptoms are severe, consult your GP as a first port of call. Anxiety counselling can help you to face your fears and rebuild self-esteem.

Anxiety treatment & counselling

The aim of anxiety treatment is to help reduce symptoms so anxious feelings no longer affect your daily life. Anxiety counselling is one form of anxiety treatment and it can help by teaching you how to:
• co-manage your life to get back to normal
• define and reframe your most common anxieties
• manage and understand the problem
• manage your life better through meeting your needs
• understand your own limits and triggers
• confront and tolerate your fears
• understand the effects of your self esteem and expectations
• consider the wider context of your relationships and their effects.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has a structured approach to dealing with anxiety in stages. It allows sufferers to look at their own unhealthy thinking and employs graduated exercises in desensitisation and exposure to help people face their fears and anxieties. Psychoanalytic work can look at the origins of the anxiety and offer new perspectives when the time is right.

Mindfulness exercises for anxiety can help you manage symptoms. The aim of mindfulness is to develop your moment-by-moment awareness to be appreciative, self-compassionate and non-judgemental. You will gain greater clarity on what is happening around you, which should help you recognise your anxiety triggers and deal with them effectively.

Sources and further information

Living in an age of anxiety

Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common concern in the 21st century. In the UK, 19% of people suffer from depression and anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the ‘flight or fight’ response. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems arise when this response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or indeed is generated when there is no danger present.

The physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Dry mouth
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Nausea
  • Urge to pass urine/empty bowels
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Pins and needles

The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Inner tension
  • Agitation
  • Fear of losing control
  • Dread that something catastrophic is going to happen (such as blackout, seizure, heart attack or death)
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of detachment

According to Laura Whitehead, the partnerships manager of Anxiety UK, anxiety becomes a problem when it is disproportionate to the risk or obstacle that causes it. She advises observing when worry begins to interfere with daily life. “If you start to lose interest in what you would usually be doing, if you’re noticing physical pain or rapid heartbeat, if you’re finding excuses not to go places because you’re worried about certain things occurring …” The physical manifestations include trembling, headache, pins and needles, sweating, stomach ache, muscular pain, excessive tiredness or awakeness and a change in appetite.

These symptoms seem common enough for most people to claim a few. But begin to look for them and you might spur a hyper-vigilance which itself induces anxiety, causing more symptoms to present. It is east to see how anxiety spirals.

Anxiety is a normal emotion and as such is not something that can really be “cured”. In fact, there are many occasions where anxiety is helpful and useful. There are a number of techniques that can help you to control your feelings of anxiety and a combination of counselling, medication and self help strategies can help anybody affected by anxiety overcome their disorder and reach a point where they control their anxiety rather than the anxiety controlling them and affecting their quality of life.