How Are You Maintaining Your Anxiety?
By Karen Hastings, Hertfordshire
Worries and anxieties are normal and familiar to all of us. They
are necessary to our survival as they prepare us for coping with
stress and danger. When we perceive danger, changes take place
in our body, in how we think and also in how we behave. These
changes are triggered by the release of the hormone adrenalin
and are crucial as they prime us for action.
Problems arise when the stress response becomes chronic, or
excessive and symptoms of long-term anxiety include the
Muscular discomfort – headaches – difficulty swallowing – chest
pains – stomach cramps – blurred vision – ringing ears – nausea
– dizziness – shortness of breath.
So what causes chronic anxiety?
The actual trigger for the stress response might be real or
imagined, for example, a person with a social phobia may feel
just as panicky at the thought of having to walk into a big
party as actually walking into a big party. Whether the trigger
is a real or imagined threat, the key to persistent anxiety is
you and the cycle that you maintain. This usually takes three
1. Bodily symptom cycles: worrying about the physical symptoms
of anxiety so much that this worry re-triggers the stress
response and the physical symptoms.
2. Biased thinking cycles: overestimating the threat of danger
and underestimating your coping resources. Common thinking
biases include; black and white thinking, catastrophising;
exaggerating, ignoring the positive. Biased thinking can further
increase distress and anxiety, which in turn enhances thinking
distortions even more!
3. Behavioural response cycles: avoidance is a common response
to anxiety, it is natural to want to escape to somewhere safe
and comforting. The problem with this is that avoidance keeps
the problem going as the you will never get to learn that you
Which of these cycles best describes how you keep your anxiety
going? Once you have identified which cycle you tend to maintain
you can begin to plan to break the cycle.
When clients come to see me for cognitive behaviour therapy
Edinburgh, I have a range of techniques in my toolbox that are
useful in breaking the anxiety cycle the person is maintaining.
An example of techniques include the following:
1. Bodily symptom cycle: controlled breathing, relaxation
training, expanding awareness techniques, hypnosis,
psycho-education, introducing exercise as a coping strategy.
2. Biased thinking: belief change process, thought challenging,
distraction, teaching use of clean language, communication
model, sub-modality work, hypnosis.
3. Problem Behaviour: graded exposure, goal setting, swish
process, fast phobia cure, problem-solving strategies.
I also work with clients to enable them to develop coping
strategies, during Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Edinburgh and NLP
Edinburgh, that can be used in the longer term. If you are
experiencing anxiety that is impacting on your functioning and
well-being it may be useful to see a cognitive therapist.
Therapies that focus of changing negative patterns of thought
are now considered key methods in overcoming anxiety, phobias
About the Author: Karen has a degree in Psychology and is also a
mental-health occupational therapist, with NHS experience. Karen
is registered with the HPC. Karen practices privately and offers
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Edinburgh, NLP Edinburgh and
Hypnotherapy Edinburgh. Visit http://www.karenhastings.co.uk
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