What do we mean by the term anxiety. When should we seek help?

Anxiety is a natural response to something we perceive as a threat. The threat can be real or imagined, think of how you feel watching a scary movie or riding the big dipper at the funfair. Having symptoms of anxiety can affect how we feel physically, and mentally, and how we behave.


Many people describe anxiety as a feeling of dread, feeling fearful, worried as if something is about to happen. For short periods, such as the day before a job interview, we can cope. It’s the autonomic nervous system doing its job getting us ready for a challenging event. However, if these symptoms become persistent it might be time to seek professional help.

Signs & symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can affect our mind, body and behaviour, for instance, we might feel tearful, get stress headaches, and avoid some situations that trigger the feelings of anxiety. Common symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • feeling tired, restless or irritable
  • feeling shaky or dizzy, sweating more than usual
  • being unable to concentrate or make clear decisions
  • trouble sleeping, either getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • worrying about the past or future, or thinking something bad will happen
  • headaches, tummy aches or muscle pain
  • dry mouth
  • pins and needles
  • noticing your heartbeat gets stronger, faster or irregular, or you get short of breath when you start feeling anxious

If you are not sure if the feeling of breathlessness is from anxiety or if you are worried about any other symptoms, see your GP.                                                                                        

What happens to my body when I am feeling anxious?

The system we don't consciously control that regulates things such as our heart rate, breathing, urination and sexual function comes into play. It is the system that reacts when feel you are under threat. The autonomic nervous system produces our fight, flight, and freeze response, which is designed to help you defend yourself, or run away from danger.

It has helped to keep the human race going for thousands of years. However, when we find ourselves in a continual state of fight, flight, and freeze, it is not a healthy place to be and can have long-term effects on physical and mental health. 

Working and talking with people in one-to-one sessions many have spoken about keeping themselves busy all the time. Not being able to sit still, always on the go. People talk about focusing on their jobs, working long hours, and worrying about housework ensuring that the house always looks perfect. People often say something like ‘That’s just how I am’. However, if the things are often never really achieved, there is always something else to do, something else to clean. If the list gets longer, never quite reaches the end and there is no real sense of achievement or satisfaction.

This may be a sign of ‘flight’, running from something you do not want to think about, perhaps a past trauma that has never been properly acknowledged or dealt with. We develop strategies (keeping busy) that help us deal with the feelings of anxiety, keeping the unwanted feelings at bay. However, if these feelings are not addressed for some people this cycle could go on for years. Not feeling happy, perhaps not knowing why we don’t feel very happy, something just doesn’t feel right and one’s physical health is possibly being affected too. This is probably the time to reach out for help.

When to consider getting help

Anxiety can become a problem if we start worrying a lot about minor or relatively harmless things if we are overthinking. If the feelings of anxiety are intense, if we feel overwhelmed and it is impacting our day-to-day life or affecting our relationships it is probably time to seek help.

If you are struggling with anxiety please speak to your GP, health professional, or contact a private practitioner such as a counsellor.

Self-help for anxiety/useful resources:





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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Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, WV10
Written by Jayne Jackson
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, WV10

Jayne Jackson - Counsellor, Hypnotherapist.

In private practice in Staffordshire, West Midlands.
Worked for many years with children and families in Local Authorities & voluntary sector supporting vulnerable families dealing with loss & trauma. Worked in training and further education.

Time to Talk. https://www.timetotalk2023.com/contact 

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