Posted on 14 February 2017
We are often told that there is an epidemic of anxiety today, and it certainly seems that way. At my anxiety hypnotherapy clinics in Henley and Harley Street, London I am seeing increasing numbers of clients with anxiety disorders, and I have been wondering why this is.
I decided to take a look at the research to see if there really is an increase in anxiety. Answering the question is not as straightforward as it first seems. For example, it is not easy to compare today’s statistics with earlier times as we now categorise anxiety differently. It may also be that people are more likely to report symptoms and seek help at the doctor, so the increase might be one of visibility.
Many researchers have considered these points and the conclusion seems to be that, even taking them into account, there is a real increase in many mental conditions such as depression and anxiety. There is good evidence that the symptoms of such disorders (including sleeplessness, lack of appetite, poor concentration and memory, feeling overwhelmed) are sharply increasing, especially among young women.
So what is going on here? Well, there is some good news.
So, in the spirit of positivity let’s start by focussing on the good. The stigma around anxiety, and mental health problems generally is lessening. Why? One factor is the bravery of well-known people who are now speaking out about their experiences.
One great example of this was an article by ITV news presenter Jess Dunsdon. I loved what she wrote, especially because she describes vividly how severe anxiety feels, saying: “The more anxious I felt, the faster the thoughts raced and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t switch on the rational part of my brain. I felt like I was going insane and I imagined myself locked up in a psychiatric hospital. In reality though, I had become locked inside my head".
Those types of feelings are so common. My clients often tell me that they feel much better when they realise that what they are feeling is similar to others. If you suffer with anxiety, your experience will be unique to you (this is just one aspect of how I would work with you if you decide to come to me for anxiety hypnotherapy), however the fact that you are not alone in what you are feeling can be very comforting.
Another thing I liked about Jess’s article is she highlights that anxiety can hit any of us at any time, as happened to her. Jess is a successful woman in her 30s, she had never experienced anything like this before . . . and it hit her very hard.
Jess is a great example of brave people speaking out. In her article, however she mentions another problem. The fact that our over-stretched NHS means it is difficult to get help. As Jess says, if someone had a broken leg we would not expect them to walk around on it for six months before they got help, yet six months is a usual time people have to wait to access talking therapies through the NHS.
So it is no surprise, complaints about mental health services have jumped 54% in the last five years. People are not getting the help they deserve or need. It is good to see our new Prime Minister has pledged better mental health services, let’s hope she delivers.
But if the NHS cannot cope, then do we need to look at this in a different way? Perhaps it is time to step back and look at the underlying causes. Many of my clients tell me they feel isolated and have no-one to talk to and that can make anxiety much harder to overcome.
This February saw a great initiative, Time to Talk Day, an annual event organised by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness as part of Time to Change. The initiative, which has been running since 2014, aims to break the silence around mental health issues. It is a brilliant attempt to get people communicating about their feelings. All over the country in schools, colleges and offices, at coffee mornings and in church halls people were sharing their experiences.
A word which kept running through my head when I read the reports was ‘community’. People were coming together to support each other.
I wonder if it is the lack of community which is leading to the problems in the first place. We live in a fast-changing world, we move house more, change jobs more. This is most pronounced in younger people and they are experiencing the fastest rise in anxiety disorders. Another important cause is a culture which encourages us to constantly measure ourselves again supposed ideals on social media. This can easily worsen those inner feelings that we are not good enough or we have to be successful etc in order to deserve a happy and fulfilled life.
It is difficult to see how this will change any time soon. So, we have to work out how to help and support ourselves and in turn our children. What can we do?
One thing I would advise is to get help as soon as you feel your anxiety is getting on top of you. A Cognitive Hypnotherapist such as myself can help you address the underlying causes of your problems and help you make permanent changes to your anxiety.
Many people have a misconception that any change will take a very long time. Actually, I help most of my clients in just a few sessions, usually as few as four or five. I work in a very targeted way which will treat you as an individual and address your particular problems. My individual approach creates lasting changes and effects.
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