Described as an intense panic or tight-chested feeling, anxiety disorder can prevent people from leaving the house for years. Sufferers experience a wide range of symptoms including insomnia, extreme weight loss and gain, shaking and obsessive thoughts.
In the last four years, the number of NHS outpatients receiving treatment for anxiety disorder has quadrupled. An estimated 2.2 million people across the country are sufferers, most of whom are thought to be women (for every 60 people who call Anxiety UK for help, 40 are female).
Treatment for anxiety disorder on the NHS consists of six therapy sessions and a prescription for antidepressants. According to Anxiety UK, this is not sufficient. Sufferers need more help with life after treatment or they will simply revert back to their old habits and thoughts.
In an attempt to address this problem, Anxiety UK has organised a scheme in which sufferers are assigned a trained mentor.
One sufferer, 40-year-old Bev Perry, has struggled with her social anxiety disorder for most of her life. Although married with two children, Bev has no close friends and spent the last 16 years indoors with nothing but the television for company.
She describes how she was overweight as a child, afraid of being judged and always intensely nervous of social situations. As she grew older the paranoia and feelings of vulnerability grew until she resigned herself to staying indoors away from other people. Her husband Ian has supported her through everything, including caring for both of their children, as Bev had always been too afraid to take them outdoors.
Anxiety UK matched Bev with a mentor they believed would be best suited to help her condition. They found Chloe Lycett, a 23-year-old psychology graduate studying for her MA at Manchester.
Bev and Chloe now meet once a week to talk about everything. Due to the OCD that took up much of Chloe’s childhood, she is in a good position to sympathise with Bev. She said: ‘Really luckily, we just clicked. There was an instant rapport and we both disclosed a lot. It’s like a confidential, safe, non-judgmental space for both of us.’
Now, after a month of mentoring, Bev has travelled on the bus for the first time in 17 years and has since started a self-defence class as suggested by Chloe.
Bev said: ‘I don’t think my anxieties will ever go away, but the more things I do, the easier it gets. My aim now is to get a job. My family have always loved me – they have to, we’re family! But it makes such a difference to know there’s someone else who accepts me. It’s so much easier to go out into the world when you know there’s someone in it who thinks you’re OK.’
We list trained and qualified counsellors from all over the UK on this directory. If you would like to find out more about how counselling can help with anxiety disorder, please visit our Anxiety page.
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