What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s physical response to a perceived threat.

Anxiety symptoms include:

Increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweaty palms,
racing thoughts, ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, restlessness, muscle tension

Anxiety is our body’s inbuilt mechanism for responding to danger. When our brain’s anxiety system is triggered, a series of biochemical reactions occur that get us ready for survival – the fight/flight/freeze response. Anxiety is a completely natural reaction that is necessary for human survival. Some level of anxiety is also adaptive because it motivates us and enables us to perform at our best.

However, anxiety can become problematic when our brain and body react as if there is danger, when in reality we are safe.

Anxiety is a bit like a smoke alarm system. A smoke alarm can help to protect us when there is an actual fire. But when a smoke alarm becomes oversensitive, it gets confused and goes off when there isn’t really a fire.

You might have experienced this in your own home, for example, when you have burned some toast in your kitchen! Like a smoke alarm, anxiety is helpful and adaptive when it works right. But, if the anxiety response repeatedly goes off when there is no real danger, it can feel both scary and exhausting.

We may experience racing thoughts, a pounding heart, shortness of breath, muscle tension, sweating, dizziness, tingling and other uncomfortable anxiety sensations. We may have panic attacks or develop an irrational fear or strong aversion to something, which is known as a phobia.

Anxiety symptoms

Normal anxiety is usually limited in time and connected with a particular stressful situation or event, such as attending a job interview. Anxiety symptoms experienced by people with an anxiety disorder is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious stressful situation, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning.

Common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Psychological: Excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing
    (assuming the worst-case scenario), or repetitive thinking
  • Physical: Increased heart rate, rapid breathing, tightening of the chest, sweaty palms, racing thoughts, restlessness, feeling on edge, muscle tension, panic attacks
  • Behavioural: Avoidance of situations that make us feel anxious, which can impact on our work, relationships or workThese are just some of a number of anxiety symptoms that you might experience. It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor to find out more about whether you might have an anxiety disorder. It can be helpful to know that anxiety and depression symptoms can also occur together.

    Click here to find out more about depression.

Other conditions where anxiety is present:

Obsessive compulsive disorder: Ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety
and the carrying out certain behaviours or rituals.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: This can happen after a person experiences one or more traumatic events.

Click here to find out more about PTSD.

What causes anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders aren’t caused by a single factor, but by a combination of things. A family history of anxiety, a person’s genetic makeup, physical health, personality traits and stressful life experiences can all contribute to the development of anxiety.

Anxiety treatment

There are three broad categories of treatment for anxiety, these include:

  • Psychological treatments (talking therapies)
  • Physical treatments (medications)
  • Self-help and alternative therapies

Often a combination of the above anxiety treatment approaches can be helpful.

A thorough assessment by your doctor is needed to decide on the best combination for you.

How Mindful Living Can Help


We specialise in the psychological treatment of anxiety. From your first session we will teach you practical tools such as mindfulness, deep breathing and relaxation, to regulate your smoke alarm and nervous system. This will helpful to reduce your anxiety symptoms. You will learn how to handle anxiety more effectively so that it no longer overwhelms you or defines your life.

We also utilise EMDR, which is very effective for treating anxiety at its roots. Anxiety is often just the ‘tip of the iceberg’; a window of opportunity for us to curiously explore what is going on underneath. Very often, anxiety stems from past painful experiences in our lives. EMDR goes deeper to resolve the core underlying issues so that you can experience profound and lasting change in your life.

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Our friendly team are on hand now to take any enquiries you have. You are more than welcome to get in touch for an obligation-free chat, to ask any questions, or to schedule a face-to-face, online or telephone appointment.