Anxiety is a perfectly healthy emotion when you are faced with a legitimate danger. However, some people have unhealthy anxiety levels, which can severely impact their daily lives.

Those who suffer from substance addiction are also likely to experience unhealthy anxiety levels. Because of this, dual-diagnosis treatment approaches are often used in rehab clinics, which will see patients following treatment plans for both conditions simultaneously.

In this guide, you’ll find information about anxiety, the different types of common disorders, and advice on managing anxiety effectively.


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is recognised as a mental health condition. It can be defined as a natural and typically short-lived response to stress that causes an individual to experience feelings of worry, nervousness, or a sense of apprehension.

Anxiety disorders can also cause individuals to experience physical symptoms,  impacting day-to-day lives, overall health, and personal well-being. These anxious feelings can range from mild to severe.

From a physiological perspective, the brain’s anxiety mechanism sits in the limbic system. This mechanism is scientifically known as ‘fight or flight’. A hormone known as adrenaline is responsible for this important emotion.

So, in other words, anxiety is simply fear we feel when faced with danger. But anxiety becomes a problem when it fires at times when it is irrational to do so.


What Causes Anxiety?

There are many different causes. Anxiety can originate from either a single or a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders are (generally speaking) more susceptible to experiencing anxiety themselves. Trauma can also cause a person to develop an anxiety disorder. This may include (but is not limited to) experiencing abuse, the death of a loved one, and going through a hard divorce, which can trigger anxiety.

In addition to the above, certain medical conditions (Such as heart disease) can also induce anxiety symptoms. People with certain personality types and early developmental experiences may also be more prone to anxiety disorders.


What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

What anxiety feels like for one person may differ from another. However, symptoms can be debilitating, impacting the way a person lives their life.

On the other hand, individuals can also have high-functioning anxiety, meaning they can manage their everyday lives whilst experiencing a range of anxiety symptoms.

Typically speaking, a person who is living with an anxiety disorder may experience:

  • Feelings of excessive worry or fear.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • An inability to relax.
  • Feelings of pure dread or apprehension.
  • Palpitations or increased heart rate.
  • Sweating and trembling.
  • Being fearful of leaving the house, or engaging in everyday tasks (e.g. going on public transport).
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation.
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort or nausea.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • The need to avoid anxiety-inducing situations.
  • Compulsive, ritualistic or obsessive behaviours.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions, even if they seem simple to others.
  • Intrusive thoughts or urges.
  • Difficulty focusing and being present.


Are Anxiety Disorders Common?

Anxiety disorders are a very common problem. They are so common, in fact, that new data suggests that 6 out of 10 people in the UK get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder every week.

Moreover, anxiety disorders can impact individuals no matter their age group, gender, or socioeconomic background. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 301 million adults worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder, along with 58 million children.


Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

The truth is, it’s a spectrum. Anxiety disorders represent various psychological conditions, each characterised by excessive and persistent fear, nervousness, or worry.

Some common types of anxiety disorders include (but are not limited to):

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – The most common anxiety condition. Involves experiencing chronic, excessive worry about various aspects of life.
  • Panic Disorder – This is marked by recurrent panic attacks. This can happen completely out of the blue, causing individuals to fear experiencing them due to their unpredictability.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – Characterised by an intense fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, and a strong concern about being judged.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Defined as persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours or compulsions.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This condition develops after experiencing a mentally damaging event, leading to distressing symptoms like flashbacks and severe anxiety.


Panic Attacks vs Anxiety Attacks

People who experience anxiety attacks are more likely to develop panic attacks. And, although they are similar experiences and often confused, panic and anxiety attacks are different.

Panic attacks feel like abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort, peaking within minutes. They may include symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and a fear of losing control or dying.

Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, are typically related to a perceived stressor or threat. They can develop more slowly and vary in intensity and duration, with symptoms such as restlessness, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating being more common.


How to Managing Anxiety – Useful Coping Tools

Fortunately, there are many coping tools and strategies that are used for effectively managing anxiety.

Breathing Techniques

Diaphragmatic or ‘deep’ breathing can help soothe anxiety symptoms. Practising slow, deep breaths sends signals to the brain to relax, subsequently reducing the stress response.

For those living with an anxiety disorder, it’s incredibly helpful to practice these techniques regularly. And not only during anxiety episodes but to encourage relaxation and stress resilience for whenever an anxiety attack occurs.

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques can help detach from feelings of anxiety by helping people redirect their focus back into the present moment.

The next time you feel an anxiety attack coming on, try using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This includes identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness can help individuals develop a heightened awareness of the present when needed, significantly reducing anxious thoughts.

An excellent example of a mindfulness technique would be mindful breathing. This technique involves observing your breath, allowing the mind to hyperfocus on each inhalation and exhalation.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that helps people confront their anxiety and fears.

When the fear is of a specific object, situation, or activity, systematic and gradual exposure can help desensitise and reduce the fear response over time, making it particularly effective for phobias and PTSD.

A prime example is someone who has a big fear of public speaking. They might start by imagining giving a speech, then progress to speaking to small groups, gradually working up to larger audiences.

Anxiety Medication

In conjunction with other anxiety coping tools, some may find it beneficial to obtain a prescription for anxiety medication.

There are various types of anxiety medications available, including prescriptions for fluoxetine, citalopram or beta-blockers. Each category of medication serves to alleviate anxiety symptoms, but they function in different ways and may have varying side effects. So, it’s important to go for a consultation with your GP to determine the best course of action for you.


Tips on How to Manage Anxiety

We understand that dealing with anxiety can be challenging and overwhelming at times, and everyone’s experience with it is unique.

So, since several coping tools and strategies have already been explored in this article, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s essential to have a variety of approaches available to find what works best for you.

Let’s take a closer look at some additional supportive tips on how to manage anxiety more effectively, hoping that they bring relief and foster a sense of well-being.

Focus on Your Health

Ensure you eat healthily. Try to eat your ‘five a day’ and don’t binge on chocolate and sweets. Eating healthy foods provides the fuel your body needs to get through the day without feeling stressed and uptight. Try to eat lots of natural foods such as vegetables, rice, lean proteins and whole grains.

Consider taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is thought to reduce the occurrence of anxiety. Scientists believe stress depletes the body of magnesium, so anxiety will only make things worse. Taking a magnesium supplement will restore your body’s magnesium reserves to a healthy level again.

Identify Triggers

Whether it’s social situations, a family member or a certain environment, remember that you are in control. Make a note of external and internal stimuli that trigger your anxiety. Then, try to avoid these triggers and situations where they arise.

Keep a journal so you can write down situations, feelings and people who trigger your anxiety. Equally, keep a ‘thought journal’. Anxiety outbreaks are equally caused by negative thinking as they are physical situations. Write down negative thoughts in your journal as and when they arise. Later, you are able to work on altering your thinking in ways that do not give rise to anxiety.

If you cannot avoid these situations, consider strategies for coping with these situations, such as exposure therapy. If your anxiety is unmanageable, consider reaching out to an anxiety rehab centre.

Here, you will receive modern therapy such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These therapies arm you with coping strategies when faced with external anxiety triggers you simply cannot avoid.

Don’t Turn to Substances to Manage Your Anxiety

Drugs and alcohol may provide a temporary release from anxiety, but ‘rebound’ anxiety will return as soon as the effects of drugs or alcohol subside.

Over time, your body will build up a tolerance to drugs and alcohol, and you will need to take greater quantities of them in order to manage your anxiety. Before you know it, you will also be addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a drug in its own right. In fact, caffeine is classed as a psychoactive drug in the same way as heroin and cocaine.

Caffeine raises your blood pressure and increases your heartbeat. This, in turn, will likely aggravate your anxiety.

Instead of consuming caffeine, try to drink plenty of water throughout the day instead. Remember, dehydration makes us weak. When we are weak, we are much more likely to feel agitated and stressed. When you get stressed, you’re likely to experience anxiety.

Be Kinder to Yourself

Managing anxiety is no small feat, and it really calls for a bit of self-compassion and kindness.

When we’re stuck in a cycle of worry and stress, being kind to ourselves means acknowledging our feelings without beating ourselves up. It’s about giving ourselves a break and realising that it’s okay not to have it all together sometimes.

It’s important to practise positive self talk and let go of relentless self-criticism. Embrace our vulnerabilities. In doing so, we create a safe space within ourselves, where healing and understanding can thrive instead of anxiety.

Incorporate Exercise into Your Routine

The old adage ‘a healthy body is a healthy mind’ could not be more true than when it comes to defeating anxiety. In fact, physical exercise is about the best natural anxiety remedy available today. So get out of your house and go for a walk, even if it’s just a twenty-minute walk around the block.

Remember That Your Anxiety Will Pass

All storms come to an end, no matter how devastating. The same is true for anxiety.

Life is full of mini-storms that act as anxiety triggers. No matter how big your problem seems right now, the storm will pass. So when you suffer from anxiety, at least remind yourself the feeling will pass.

Seek Help From a Mental Health Professional

There is no shame in considering professional support on your journey to learning how to manage anxiety. If you’re struggling to find ways to manage anxiety, we highly recommend seeking help from a mental health professional.

Get Enough Sleep

One guaranteed way to increase anxiety is not to get enough sleep.

Try to get eight to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Some people may need even more. A lack of sleep means your body is not sufficiently recharged for the challenges you face the next day. You’ll also lack the concentration to complete important tasks. If you start to make mistakes, you’ll likely run into anxiety sooner rather than later.


Get in Touch Today

We hope you enjoyed our article on how to manage anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, then why not consider our anxiety rehabilitation services?

Ocean Recovery Centre is located in Blackpool, Lancashire. As well as anxiety, we also treat substance misuse and a range of other behavioural addictions.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 29, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.