What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling we all experience at times and a normal human emotion. Anxiety, when taking a driving test or before an important interview, is entirely natural and may push us to perform better.

However, there are circumstances in which anxiety can become a problem, especially if it continues for an extended period. This is sometimes part of a larger problem, such as a specific phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it can often occur as a condition in its own right, known as a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Among the indications that you may be suffering from anxiety are:

  • your anxiety persists over a substantial time
  • the situation doesn’t seem to warrant the extent of your fears and worries
  • you find yourself avoiding anxiety-triggering situations
  • you experience symptoms such as panic attacks on an ongoing basis
  • your feelings of anxiety are preventing you from coping with or enjoying your normal life
  • you have trouble sleeping
  • you feel irritable or have trouble concentrating

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety has many possible causes. Sometimes it’s provoked by a traumatic event or a history of trauma, such as abuse or bullying. It can also be caused by a significant change such as divorce, moving house or undergoing surgery.

In other cases, the cause is less clear and may simply be a build-up of minor stress-causing situations that eventually become too much. In addition, you could be genetically predisposed to anxiety. It’s estimated that you have five times as much chance of suffering it if you have a family history of anxiety.

How is anxiety treated?

Anxiety can be treated by either psychotherapy or counselling. Counselling tends to be preferable in mild to moderate cases, especially those where the cause is a build-up of external stress factors.

Psychotherapy is generally recommended for anxiety caused by a history of traumatic experiences. We can examine these and work through the effects they’re having on you, helping you to learn how to cope with them positively.


Maida Vale
Westminster, London, W9

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UK Council for Psychotherapy