Rationalising the irrational

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life and is not always related to an underlying condition or event.


Some anxiety can be a pretty normal response when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important life decision.

When we experience anxiety, we release stress-related chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline that are associated with the body’s natural fight/ flight response that helps us deal with attack effectively: pumping blood into the large muscles, making us breathe heavier and deeper and our heartbeat faster in preparation to prepare ourselves for action.

Due to this being etched into our brain’s way back in the days of cavemen when it was vital to our survival to fight or run away from potential threats, we can find ourselves automatically fearing perceived threats or uncomfortable situations intensely. Avoiding only reinforces to us that the threat is real and heightens the symptoms that we may experience.

People who are experiencing anxiety over a prolonged period of time often report experiencing physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they begin to feel anxious which can feel overwhelming, and fear that things will never change. The behaviour can become so ingrained it’s difficult to rationalise and create space to challenge your thinking and understand that there are ways to regain a sense of control.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anyone who has anxiety or knows someone who has struggled with it can identify it by some of its most common symptoms: 

  • feeling restless or on edge
  • being irritable
  • getting tired easily
  • having difficulty concentrating or feeling your mind goes blank.
  • having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • having tense muscles 

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is when those feelings don't go away, they’re extreme for the situation, and you can’t seem to control them. They amplify your experience, intensifying thoughts, feelings and symptoms.

When anxiety is severe or there all the time, it makes it hard to cope with daily life. 

Some (GAD) symptoms you may experience may be:

  • Your worrying is uncontrollable and causes distress.
  • Your worrying affects your daily life, including school, your job and your social life.
  • You cannot let go of your worries.
  • You worry about all sorts of things, such as your job or health, and minor concerns, such as household chores:
  • Intense and overwhelming feelings lasting for weeks, months or can keep going up and down over many years.
  • Thoughts negatively affect your thoughts behaviour and general health.
  • Thoughts leave you feeling distressed and not enjoying life. 

Anxiety can cause an array of physical symptoms like:

  • stomach pain, nausea, or digestive trouble
  • headache
  • insomnia or other sleep issues (waking up frequently, for example)
  • weakness or fatigue
  • rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • pounding heart or increased heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • muscle tension or pain

When to seek professional help

If you have found that your anxiety has become intensive and consuming and is impacting your ability to perform day to day tasks, interfering with friendships and relationships it would be beneficial to start accessing support.

It may be useful to speak to your G.P to rule out any medical cause before seeking the support of a therapist who is experienced in supporting those with anxiety-related conditions. Helping you to begin to rationalise the irrationality of anxiety..

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40
Written by Donna West, MBACP (Accred)ACTO (Snr) Psychotherapist/Clinical supervisor
St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40

I have worked with an array of clients whom have accessed counselling for varying reasons that they feel are inhibiting them from living an authentic life. My role within the therapeutic relationship is to work alongside an individual to facilitate self-exploration and consider alternative routes that may lay before them.

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