Signs of anxiousness vs. anxiety

What are the signs and what's the difference between Anxiousness and Anxiety Disorder?

Published on March 8th 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent, with many factors contributing to this. Whether it’s the rising cost of living, adjusting to hybrid work arrangements, or feeling stressed by the constant stream of negative news, it’s common to experience anxious feelings from time to time. However, how can you tell if your feelings of anxiety have developed into an anxiety disorder? When should you seek professional help? In this article, we’ll explore the signs that indicate your worries have become a more serious mental health issue.

Photo by SHINE TANG on Unsplash

What is anxiousness?

Anxiousness is a term used to describe the state of worry or stress that we experience. It can arise from specific triggers, such as a health concern or a work-related issue, or it may manifest as a more general sense of unease. It’s entirely normal to experience bouts of anxiousness, especially during major life changes. In fact, almost everyone will experience this feeling at some point in their lives, even if they don’t openly discuss it.

What’s the difference between anxiousness and anxiety disorder?

Although we often use the terms “anxiousness” and “anxiety disorder” interchangeably, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.

Anxiousness is a more general term that refers to the feelings of worry or stress that we experience. It doesn’t necessarily indicate the severity or duration of those feelings, and it can be used to describe anything from pre-date jitters to ongoing stress. However, experiencing anxiousness doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a mental health condition that requires treatment.

Anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a more serious and less common condition. Approximately 19% of Americans have experienced some form of anxiety disorder in the past year. There are several types of anxiety disorder, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Unlike general anxiousness, anxiety disorder is persistent and can significantly impact your daily life, affecting your ability to work, socialise, and form relationships.

While feelings of anxiousness may be resolved with simple stress-reducing exercises, anxiety disorder typically requires more intensive treatment, such as therapy or medication. It’s important to recognise the difference between the two and seek appropriate help if you suspect that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

Does anxiousness turn into anxiety disorder?

Anxiety doesn’t always develop in a straightforward, linear manner. You might feel incredibly stressed one day, only to feel completely calm and collected the next.

For some people, feelings of anxiousness may come and go throughout their lives without ever becoming more severe or developing into an anxiety disorder. However, in other cases, anxiousness can gradually increase in severity until it becomes a more serious mental health condition. This can happen so gradually that we may not even realise we’re living with an anxiety disorder, which is why it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

In some cases, anxiety disorder may appear suddenly and without warning, even in individuals who have never experienced high levels of stress before. For example, someone might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD typically arise within a month of the event and can be severe and long-lasting.

Overall, anxiety is a complex and varied condition that can affect individuals in different ways. It’s important to be mindful of your own symptoms and seek help if you suspect that you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

How can I tell if I need help with my anxiousness?

Taking care of your mental health is always a good idea, regardless of whether you’re currently experiencing anxiety or not. You don’t have to wait until your anxiety becomes severe before trying out strategies to manage it, like mindfulness, exercise, or talking to a friend.

However, if you’re starting to feel like your anxiousness could be something more serious, there are a few things you can do to seek help. The first step is to make an appointment with your GP and discuss your mental health concerns. It can be helpful to track your physical symptoms of anxiety and how they’re affecting your life beforehand. You may also want to take an anxiety self-assessment quiz to get a better sense of your symptoms, though this isn’t a replacement for professional medical advice.

Remember, there’s no shame in talking to your doctor about your mental health. Your concerns are just as valid as any physical health issues, and your doctor will take them seriously.

“As GPs, one in four appointments are to do with mental health as the primary reason for consulting. It is really important that we as GPs carefully assess every individual patient’s problem” says GP Dr Claire Ashley. 

“We commonly ask about mood, thoughts and feelings, and worries but also about physical symptoms such as poor sleep, lack of appetite and self-neglect. We will also want to know if you are drinking alcohol to manage your symptoms. We might ask about behavioural changes and how much your relationships and ability to work and care for others is affected,” she adds.

How can anxiousness be treated?

If you’re dealing with anxious thoughts, there are several self-care measures you can try. Shifting your focus can be especially helpful. You might want to explore audio relaxation techniques that you can listen to on your phone or practice simple breathing exercises. It may sound simple, but breathing techniques have been shown to be effective against anxiety and stress.

Making general lifestyle changes can also be useful for managing feelings of anxiousness. For instance, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help avoid dehydration, which can cause anxiety. Additionally, cutting back on caffeine can help, as caffeine intake has been linked to anxiety.

If your anxiousness is triggered by a particular issue, taking time to reflect on what you can do to mitigate the issue might be beneficial. For example, if your morning commute causes you stress, consider speaking to your boss about flexible working. If you’ve had an argument with a loved one, scheduling a time to speak with them calmly could be helpful.

How can anxiety disorder be treated?

If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, self-care measures may not be enough and it’s important to seek proper treatment. If your anxiety is affecting your ability to perform everyday tasks, there are treatment options available. Your GP may recommend talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help you reframe negative thoughts. You might also be prescribed medication, such as antidepressants or beta blockers, especially if you experience physical symptoms like panic attacks.

According to GP Claire Ashley, “For mild to moderate anxiety disorder, the gold standard of treatment is therapy. For more severe anxiety, the patient is likely to need a combination of therapy and medication.”

It’s worth noting that anxiousness and anxiety disorder are different in terms of their duration and severity. Tracking your mood and other symptoms using an app like Bearable can help you identify when you need additional support for your anxiety. With the right treatment, you can regain control and start living your life again.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

UK has experienced ‘explosion’ in anxiety since 2008, study finds, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/14/uk-has-experienced-explosion-in-anxiety-since-2008-study-finds

Why do I feel anxious and panicky, the NHS.
https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/why-do-i-feel-anxious-and-panicky

Anxiety Statistics, National Institute for Mental Health.
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder

Anxiety Disorders – Facts & Statistics, Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

Generalised anxiety disorder in adults, the NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overview/

Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety, Healthline.com
https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety-symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The Mayo Clinic.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Depression & Anxiety Self Assessment Quiz, The NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/depression-anxiety-self-assessment-quiz/

Dr Claire Ashley.
https://www.drclaireashley.com/

Relaxation techniques, the NHS.
https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/resource-library/relaxation-techniques/

Breathing exercises, the NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults, Ma et al. 2017.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

How to stop anxiety right now for anxiety attacks

How to stop anxiety right now.

Published on February 21st 2023.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Chapters. 
1. Recognition | 2. Breathing | 3. Grounding | 4. Hydration | 5. No Caffeine | 6. Find Support | 7. Get Outside

However much we may implement long-term stress reduction strategies (such as diet changes or exercise), sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected anxiety spiral that’s out of our control. Some of us may get a sudden increase of anxious thoughts or it may take the form of physical manifestations (such as a racing heart and shortness of breath we associate with panic attacks).

Anxiety prevention strategies are really useful (check out our article on The 7 best science-backed coping strategies for anxiety for more of these) but what should we do if we’re already anxious right now? If that’s you, then don’t worry: you’re not alone. 40 million adults in the US (and around 8 million in the UK) experience anxiety. Let’s take a look at some strategies for how to get rid of anxiety as it’s happening to you.

1. Recognise that you’re experiencing an anxiety attack.

Sometimes we’re convinced the anxiety we’re experiencing is much more serious than it actually is: for example, we may think we’re actually having a heart attack if we suddenly experience a racing heart. Other times, we may be convinced by anxiety that we’re in real danger when we’re actually safe. Recognising what you’re going through is actually anxiety is one of the most powerful things you can do in the short term. Some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack are very real-such as shortness of breath, tingling in fingers, shaking and feeling sick.  But these symptoms often go away within 30 minutes and can be distinguished, e.g. a heart attack usually begins when you physically exert yourself but anxiety attacks can happen when you’re at rest. It allows you to think more rationally and then take steps to reduce it. You may choose to opt to repeat a mantra such as: ‘I know this is anxiety and it will soon pass’ or ‘Anxiety is making me think like this right now – but it won’t last forever.’

2. Try this one-minute breathing exercise.

How often have you been told ‘just breathe!’ when you’re stressed? Whilst it might sound super unhelpful or patronising, there’s actually a good reason for this. Breathing practice has been found to be an effective remedy against anxiety. However, despite the research, when we’re anxious,our breathing can be harder to control. It’s been proven that those with anxiety can experience an exaggerated increase in their rate of respiration ( breathing). We actually need to remind ourselves to breathe properly and specific breathing exercises can help with this. “We want to release the increased tension in the muscles and find calm again. My specific recommendation when breathing is to have a longer out-breath than in-breath. This calms the vagus nerve and helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system (this system helps relax your body when you’re stressed). It also de-activates the sympathetic nervous system (the system that activates your fight and flight response).” explains Sylvia Tillmann, a TRE (Tension Releasing Exercises) provider, who teaches her clients how to release tension held in their body.

“You could count slowly to 3 whilst taking a breath in and then slowly to six when breathing out. You’ll get into a rhythm and ideally do this for a minute or two.” adds Sylvia.

3. Try some grounding techniques

When we’re anxious, we often can’t focus on what’s happening right now. How often have you been so anxious that you’ve missed a doctor’s appointment or forgotten to eat breakfast that morning? There’s a reason for this; when we’re anxious it makes it harder to concentrate and learn new information. One large study of American adults found that the more anxious they were, the worse their working memory was. Grounding techniques are techniques specifically designed to bring you back to the present moment and distract from anxious thoughts. “A simple and effective grounding exercise is to use the 54321 method. Before you start, take a few slow breaths. Take a look around you and notice 5 things that you see. Then notice 4 things in the environment you can touch. Next, bring your attention to 3 things you can hear. Next, pay attention to 2 things you can smell. Finally, bring your attention to 1 thing you can taste. Focusing your attention this way can bring you back to the present moment and quieten the mind” says CBT therapist and founder of Conscious & Calm Navit Schechter.

4. Drink a glass of water

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, but sometimes life just gets in the way. We might find it hard to remember to drink 8 glasses of water a day when our mental health is poor or rely on caffeine if we’re low on spoons.

However, even being mildly dehydrated has been found to increase anxiety and fatigue. It sounds simple but water really could help. “When you’re feeling anxious, have a glass of water. Mild dehydration can cause an increase in anxiety. There’s been several studies that indicate increasing water can have a beneficial effect on calmness.” says nutritionist Hannah Hope.

If you find yourself going hours without water, consider setting a reminder on your phone, using a water tracking bottle or keeping track of your water intake by using the Bearable app.

5. Cut down on energy drinks

Energy drinks have grown in popularity and are now a billion-dollar industry.  You may rely on them to help fatigue or grab one when you know you’ve got to cram for a big test or work presentation. A study has found energy drink consumption was associated with anxiety increasing. It’s likely due to the caffeine they contain, which can also be anxiety triggers. “Caffeine, found in tea, coffee and soda drinks can be a stimulant, and if you have increased sensitivity to caffeine then this may directly cause anxiety.” advises nutritionist Hannah Hope. We know it’s not always possible to ditch them altogether, especially if you struggle with chronic fatigue, but reducing them is one practical step you can take today if you’re dealing with anxiety.“ If you are having caffeine, then have it with food and before midday and no more than 2 servings a day.” adds Hannah Hope.

6. Speak to a friend or family member

Anxiety can make us feel incredibly isolated and alone-but it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a friend or family member you can rely on can help you think more rationally and reassure you that you’re not in danger.  One study found that support from family members is an important part of a personal support network in relation to the recovery process.

Sometimes we can feel nervous about talking to a loved one so it could be worth practising what you’d like to say. It’s worth thinking about how you’d like a loved one to support you ahead of an anxiety attack, so you feel reassured rather than dismissed. We’re often told things like ‘you’re fine! Or ‘forget about it!’ which isn’t that helpful when our anxiety feels all-consuming. You may explain what support you need, such as sharing a mantra with them that you’d like them to repeat or something that you know helps distract you.

7. Take yourself to an outside space

If it’s possible, try temporarily shifting to new surroundings-even if just for a couple of minutes. Assistant Psychologist and Hypnotherapist Holly Buckley explains: “we often find that when in panic mode, we feel trapped, almost as if the walls are closing in on you. So if you feel those panic feelings rising then safely take yourself outside to an open space.” You don’t need to travel far for this. “ This could even just be outside on your doorstep or in the car park of your work building. Just somewhere where you can hear outside sounds, see more space and feel fresh air. Then take some deep breaths and try the 54321 exercise.” she adds.

We hope these simple but effective strategies have given you some coping mechanisms if you’re dealing with anxiety right now. Whichever of these you find useful,  remember that you can use Bearable to learn how they impact your anxiety, mood, sleep, energy levels and any other symptoms you’re experiencing.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Anxiety Statistics 2023, SingleCare.
https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/anxiety-statistics/

Anxiety Statistics 2023, Champion Health.
https://championhealth.co.uk/insights/anxiety-statistics/

Getting help with Anxiety, Fear, and Panic, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-fear-panic/

Panic Attacks vs. Heart Attacks, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/wellness-insights/heart-health/2020/01/panic-attack-vs-heart-attack

The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults, Ma et al. Frontiers in Psychology.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

Anxiety, Respiration and Cerebral Blood Flow: Implications for Functional Brain Imaging, Giardino et al, Comprehensive Psychiatry.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820771

Sylvia Tillmann, Tremendous TRE.
https://www.tremendoustre.co.uk/about

The four horsemen of forgetfulness, Harvard Health Publishing.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-four-horsemen-of-forgetfulness

How Anxiety affects your focus, BBC.
https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200611-how-anxiety-affects-your-focus

Navit Schechter, Conscious & Calm.
https://consciousandcalm.com/

What is Spoon Theory, Healthline.
https://www.healthline.com/health/spoon-theory-chronic-illness-explained-like-never-before

Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men, Ganio et al, British Journal of Nutrition.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21736786/

Hannah Hope, H Hope Nutrition.
https://www.hhopenutrition.com/

Energy Drink sales in the USA 2021, Statista.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/558022/us-energy-drink-sales/

Energy drink consumption is associated with anxiety in Australian young adult males, Trapp et al. Depression and Anxiety (Journal).
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24019267/

Family Network Support and Mental Health Recovery, Pernice-Duca, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00182.x

Talking about your mental health problem, Mind.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/talking-to-friends-family/

How to deal with Severe Anxiety

How to deal with severe anxiety?

Published on November 9th 2022
Written by Jenna Farmer

Chapters.
1. About | 2. Symptoms | 3. Types | 4. Treatment | 5. Resources

Key Points.

    • Severe anxiety goes beyond the usual stress and worries of day to day life and can impact your ability to do everyday things such as working and socialising.

    • Severe anxiety causes a range of short-term and long-term symptoms that can manifest both physically and mentally.

    • The severity of your anxiety is unlikely to be dictated by the type of anxiety that you have but there are a number of tests that can be used to measure how severe your anxiety is.

    • There are a range of treatments for severe anxiety that you can access by speaking to a doctor and these include an array of therapies and medications.

Photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

Whether you dread a trip to the hospital, hate the thought of large crowds or have worries that you can’t shake, many of us experience anxiety from time to time. In fact, almost 20% of Americans have an anxiety disorder. 

For some people, the symptoms of anxiety can be more overwhelming than for others. When the symptoms of anxiety occur more frequently and seem to have a greater impact on how you live your life, it’s possible that what you’re experiencing is actually severe anxiety.

What is severe anxiety? 🤔

Severe anxiety goes beyond the usual stress and worries of day to day life that come and go. Severe anxiety impacts your ability to do everyday things-such as working and socialising.  “Whilst mild anxiety might mean we notice racing thoughts or a quickened heart rate as we go about our every day, severe anxiety impacts a person’s life and stops them from doing usual activities and may involve panic attacks” says therapist Marianne Rizkallah, who is also Head Music Therapist for North London Music Therapy.

Severe anxiety is far more than fretting: it can cause lots of very real physical symptoms, which aren’t ‘just in your head’ and you may not even realise are due to anxiety. Classic symptoms of severe anxiety include things like a racing heart, headaches, muscle twitches, digestive issues or feeling short of breath. 

Severe anxiety can also cause panic disorder, which impacts 6 million Americans.  Panic disorder is the most severe form of anxiety and is when anxiety causes panic attack; a rush of physical and mental symptoms which come on quickly-such as shortness of breath, sweating and feeling faint.

What are the symptoms of severe anxiety? 🔍

Severe anxiety causes a range of both short-term and long-term symptoms. Mentally, severe anxiety may mean you feel permanently on edge or unable to shrug off feelings of worry or impending doom. Severe anxiety also causes a range of physical symptoms too such as: sweating, racing heart, shakiness and headaches.

Sometimes you may not even realise severe anxiety is causing some of your long-term health issues too: such as insomnia (which often occurs with severe anxiety) or digestive conditions such as IBS. Rates of IBS are higher with people who have anxiety and they are especially high for those who have severe anxiety disorders like panic disorders. 

When severe anxiety happens suddenly, you may also experience a panic attack. Panic attacks may only last a few minutes (although can last longer) but can make you feel as if you are going to collapse (thanks to feeling dizzy or struggling to breathe) or even as if you’re having a heart attack (as it’s common for your heart to race during a panic attack, along with chest tightness or pain).  Panic attacks can be super scary but they’re more common than you think. In fact, 10% of us have had at least one.

Panic attacks associated with severe anxiety cause a huge range of symptoms-you may find yourself sweating more often; struggling with nausea and stomach cramps; having throat and chest tightness and physically trembling.  Because of this, many people with long-term severe anxiety don’t always connect their physical symptoms to their mental health and may seek medical help for these issues (which can then worsen the cycle of anxiety). That’s why it’s so important to get clued up on just how many different ways severe anxiety can manifest itself in your body.

How does severe anxiety differ from other types of anxiety? 🔬

There are several different types of anxiety and the type of anxiety you have doesn’t necessarily tell you how severe it is:

    • Generalised anxiety disorder: this is one of the most common types of anxiety and is when you have long-term anxiety over a range of things, rather than one specific trigger.
    • OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifests itself in repetitive behaviour such as hand washing, checking or cleaning to provide reassurance.
    • Social anxiety: anxiety related to social situations and interactions.
    • Panic disorder: a severe type of anxiety with intense fear and frequent panic attacks. 
    • PTSD: where anxiety occurs after being exposed to a disturbing experience.

Whilst some types of anxiety may present more severe symptoms, the label itself doesn’t really tell you how severe your anxiety is-after all, our brains all work differently!

Instead, you’ll likely be asked some questions by your medical team (such as your doctor or therapist) to help assess whether your anxiety is mild, moderate or severe. The GAD7 Anxiety Test Questionnaire is one common questionnaire that your doctor may use to do this. This test looks at a range of self-reporting symptoms over a two week period to decide how much anxiety is impacting your everyday life. Questions may include ‘how often have you had trouble relaxing over the last two weeks’ or ‘How often do you feel afraid something awful might happen?’

Another popular tool for this is the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Whilst the idea of being tested might cause your anxiety to spiral further, it’s important to remember the whole aim of these tools are to figure out how to get you the right support and help. If your doctor does diagnose severe anxiety, you’ll then be in the best possible position to explore a range of treatment options and support networks.

How to treat severe anxiety 🚀

There are a range of effective treatments for severe anxiety, it’s all about finding the one that works best for you (and your brain!). On your first trip to your doctor, they might advise non-medical options in the first instance. These include things like talking therapies (such as cognitive behaviour therapy which helps you challenge those persistent negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic ones) or relaxation therapies. These aren’t quick fixes (getting to grips with anxiety rarely is) but can really help: CBT has found to be effective in helping a wide range of anxiety types. One study found that group CBT therapy had a long-term impact on panic disorder, with 93% participants showing good prognosis when followed up.

If these treatments don’t work or you feel your severe anxiety needs more help, there are a range of medical treatments your doctor may suggest trying, which can be used in conjunction with other strategies you currently have to keep anxious thoughts at bay.

Antidepressants are one type of these (even if you’re not depressed, research has shown these to be super useful at tackling anxiety too). There’s lots of different types of antidepressants and some people need to try a few different kinds until they find the one that works best for them and their body, which might also depend on your current health issues or medication you already take. Antidepressants won’t instantly make your anxiety go away (research has shown the effect may kick in it at around 6-12 weeks) but for some people they can be a useful coping strategy for anxiety. They take some time to work and they don’t mean you’ll never feel anxious again – so it’s important to keep on top of all the other anxiety-busting strategies you already use.

If you are experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety, then beta-blockers may also be prescribed. These won’t take away the anxious feelings but can help quieten the physical symptoms you might get with a panic attack-such as a racing heart or shaking. Beta blockers work by slowing down your heart rate and also blocking hormones such as adrenaline, which trigger our ‘fight or flight’ panic responses. They can be particularly useful if you’re experiencing anxiety at the very thought of getting another panic attack (thus making your anxiety worse) and experiencing these physical symptoms.

Whilst severe anxiety can be really difficult to live with, there is help out there to make things much more manageable. The first step to coping with severe anxiety is to understand and recognise the symptoms so that you can seek support to help you feel in control of your mental health.

Resources for people with anxiety 🆘

There’s lots of different resources you can access if you’re struggling with anxiety:

Resources for those with anxiety in the UK:

Resources for those with anxiety in the US:

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Sources in this article

Anxiety Disorder Statistics, National Alliance on Mental Illness.
https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

 

Marianne Rizkallah, North London Music Therapy.
https://www.northlondonmusictherapy.com/

 

Anxiety Statistics, Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

 

Signs of Anxiety Disorder, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-disorder-signs/

 

Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder in Adults, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/symptoms/

 

Sleep & Anxiety Disorders by Luc Staner, National Library of Medicine.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181635/

 

The link between panic disorder, anxiety, and IBS, Verywell Mind.
https://www.verywellmind.com/irritable-bowel-syndrome-and-panic-disorder-2584207

 

Panic disorder & Panic attacks, WebMD.
https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-panic-disorder

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD7), Patient.
https://patient.info/doctor/generalised-anxiety-disorder-assessment-gad-7

 

Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck et al. Science Direct.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/beck-anxiety-inventory

 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence, Kaczkurkin, et al. National Library of Medicine.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610618/

 

Cognitive behavioural group therapy for panic disorder in a general clinical setting: a prospective cohort study with 12 to 31-years follow-up, Bilet, et al. BMC Psychiatry.
https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02679-w

 

Antidepressants may reduce anxiety more than depressive symptoms, University of York.
https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2019/research/anti-depressants-reduce-anxiety

 

Beta Blockers, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/beta-blockers/

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What triggers anxiety?

What triggers anxiety?

Published on October 28th 2022
Written by Jenna Farmer

Chapters.
1. About | 2. Symptoms | 3. Causes | 4. Triggers | 5. Management | 6. Help | 7. Resources.

Key points.

    • Everyone experiences anxious feelings but people who experience an anxiety disorder will experience anxiety about a wide range of situations and issues.

    • Everyone experiences anxiety differently, including – but not limited to – feelings of restlessness, irritability, sleeplessness, and feeling on edge.

    • There’s no single cause for anxiety but science tells us that there can be genetic, environmental, and lifestyle causes as well as causes related to other health issues.

    • Keeping a detailed diary of symptoms, habits, and other activities is one method for identifying and managing anxiety triggers.

    • Common anxiety triggers include alcohol, caffeine, skipping meals, social situations, watching the news, and social media.

Photo by Pixabay.

Sometimes it can feel as if our anxiety comes out of nowhere. Ever been in the middle of dinner or a work meeting and have an anxious thought pop into your head? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, 264 million people worldwide struggle with anxiety. Some of us know what triggers our anxiety (particularly if you are anxious about a specific part of life, such as social anxiety) but the rest of us are left wracking our brains. The truth is that there are tons of different triggers that can start an anxiety spiral. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for what triggers anxiety.

What is anxiety? 🔍

Anxiety can best be described as feeling uneasy, on edge or having a specific worry or fear.  Most of us feel anxious at some point (whether it’s exam stress or pre-date nerves) but for some of us,it sticks around for longer. When anxiety happens frequently or it seems impossible to banish those worrying thoughts, you might be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  

“Everyone experiences feeling anxious at some time or another. That’s perfectly normal. But for those of us who experience an anxiety disorder we’ll experience anxiety or worry about a wide range of situations and issues. Everyone deals with anxiety differently. Worrying excessively might mean you feel on edge, anxious and restless. You might seem irritable to other people or have trouble sleeping. If someone is excessively worrying about social situations, they might withdraw from those situations entirely and not see their friends and family as much as they might usually like to.”  Becky Cotton, Co-founder of  Lumino.

There Are several different types of anxiety disorder. For example, generalised anxiety disorder describes those who get anxious about a whole range of different things. Social anxiety disorder centers around having a high level anxiety about how we are viewed by others or being in social situations. Whilst OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is a type of anxiety in which those affected undergo obsessive rituals (such as constantly washing their hands or checking things constantly). What all these conditions have in common is anxiety are at their core. 

What are the symptoms of anxiety? 🔬

There are many symptoms of anxiety. In fact, there’s not enough time to mention them here as you’d be scrolling for hours!  Let’s start with the mental symptoms of anxiety. When we’re anxious, we might not be able to control feelings of stress or worry. You might notice yourself feeling on edge or if something terrible is lurking just around the corner. If these symptoms won’t go away and you have anxiety disorder, this can hugely impact your overall mental health: you may be super irritable, feel fatigued or unable to sleep or struggle with brain fog and confusion.

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms and it’s important to stress (whatever anyone may have told you), these aren’t just in your head. If your anxiety is short lived, you might notice your heart racing slightly or sweating more than usual. However, if your anxiety is more severe and you suffer from anxiety disorder then these physical symptoms might be more prominent: you might struggle to sleep, feel trembly, have digestive issues, headaches or not feel like eating.

Some studies also suggest long-term anxiety may also increase your chance of developing certain health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, although that doesn’t mean you definitely will. But being aware of the long-term health implications of anxiety is important so you can understand the risks and do your best to manage them.

What causes anxiety? ⛳

Anxiety is different for everybody and there’s no single cause. Some of us can pinpoint where our anxiety began (for example, in response to a traumatic life event) but lots of us aren’t exactly sure why we feel this way.

Science tells us there’s lots of potential causes of anxiety. Anxiety can run in families but that’s not to say it’s always genetic. Research has found there’s many different genes that are linked to anxiety but there’s tons of other things that influence our brain too.

Certain medical conditions could make you more prone to anxiety. For example, people with Crohn’s Disease are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and half of patients with chronic pain develop anxious symptoms.

Of course, our environment plays a huge role in anxiety also. Being exposed to stress or negative life events also increases your risk of getting of anxiety. For people who exposed to something really traumatic, the rate of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Anxiety is around 30-40%.

Finally, there can even be general lifestyle causes. For example, even drinking caffeine or alcohol may cause you to develop anxiety in the short-term.

What are the most common anxiety triggers? ⚡ 

Whilst you may not know what causes your anxiety, it may be easier to spot certain triggers. Triggers are things that flare-up or worsen your anxiety and identifying them can make it easier to keep anxious thoughts at bay. There are lots of different common triggers so not everyone will apply to you.

1. Caffeine.
Caffeine, which is found in things like energy drinks and coffee, can make anxious thoughts worse in some people. One study found higher levels of anxiety with increased caffeine consumption.

2. Alcohol.
Research has found drinking too much alcohol can poorly impact your mental health. Read our guide on anxiety and alcohol for more information.

3. Skipping meals.
When we skip meals or eat erratically, it can mean our blood sugar isn’t steady. This imbalance can leave us feeling jittery and create anxious thoughts. 

4. Bad news on the TV and in the media.
Doomscrolling, where we spend ages reading bad news stories on our phone, is a real thing. We live in a scary world right now so seeing this project on our TV and phone screens can trigger anxiety. More than 50% of Americans say that watching the news causes them stress “Bad news on the TV can be a big cause of catastrophic thinking, for example worrying about money and then seeing a news report on mortgage payments doubling can cause some people to negatively fantasise about a future where they can’t afford their mortgage and lose their house-which can trigger lots of anxiety and panic.” says Psychotherapist Laura Drane. 

5. Social media.
As well as being surrounded by the news, social media is also a place to catch a glimpse of other people’s lives. Whilst the connections we find online can often be positive, it’s important to acknowledge the negative parts of social media too. Many studies have found a strong connection between heavy social media and an increased risk of anxiety. Sometimes, online connections can be super helpful (for example, you might be part of a mental health support group or connect with others who have the same chronic illness as you) but it can bring with it a hefty dose of comparison-itis.

6. Socialising.
“Social anxiety is when we feel anxious about being amongst people-it often prevents people from accepting social invitations and it can also make it really difficult to manage things like interviews. If it carries on it can lead to social isolation” explains Sally Potter, a Solutions Focused hypnotherapist.  

How can we identify triggers for anxiety? ✍️

Identifying triggers is key to getting to grips with anxiety. There are a few different ways to do this. You might choose to use a symptom journal and keep detailed notes. Another option is to do this on your phone using the Bearable app to track different triggers and symptoms to understand how they correlate with one another. When identifying triggers, it’s important to make sure you keep a record for long enough so you can notice patterns. You may find that you actually have a combination of triggers (for example, a glass of wine may not be a trigger alone but several glasses followed by too many cups of coffee may be).

How can we manage the triggers of anxiety? 🧘

When you’ve identified triggers, you can then think of ways to manage them. It really depends on what your trigger is. For example, if alcohol is a trigger for you, you may look to cut down on your drinking. If caffeine makes your anxiety worse, switching to decaf is a simple thing you can do to make life easier. It’s also important to be aware of simple healthy habits falling by the wayside-such as drinking enough water or eating 3 balanced meals a day-as this can hugely impact your mental health.

However, some triggers are harder to handle. If news or social media make your anxiety worse, it may be unrealistic to unplug the TV or delete the instagram app for good. However, you can take back some control: for example, you might turn off app notifications so you don’t receive social media updates constantly or use a site blocker to control the amount of time you spend scrolling the news on your computer. Research has found other positive interventions, such as keeping a gratitude journal, make you more optimistic and as a result this may help us cope better with bad news events. “Follow positive accounts and hashtags on social media and be mindful of how much TV news you consume.”says Psychotherapist Laura Drane.

You might want to take a second to take yourself away from the trigger. “One of the best ways to take back control of anxiety triggers is using breath to give yourself some space. Breathe in through your nose, pause and then breathe out through your mouth until you feel calm. Then reassess the situation and choose how to respond. Learning to visualise what you want, rather than what you don’t want, can be extremely helpful. So create a rich visual picture of a situation going really well-with you at your most relaxed and happy. Doing this creates a new ‘memory’ and the more you practice, the more it will be easier to find this good memory,” says Sally Potter.

For more info you can read our blog post about the 6 best science backed coping strategies for anxiety here.

When should you seek help for your anxiety? 🚑

Whilst anxiety is common, it’s also important to reach out if you’re struggling with it or if your symptoms are impacting your work, social life or other parts of your daily life. Remember that anxiety (which all of us get once a while) is different to anxiety disorder (when anxiety is more long-term and harder to shift). If you feel that you have anxiety disorder or that your anxiety isn’t well managed, then it’s important to reach out to a GP or Counsellor for support.

Resources for people with anxiety 🆘

There’s lots of different resources you can access if you’re struggling with anxiety:

Resources for those with anxiety in the UK:

Resources for those with anxiety in the US:

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Sources in this article.

Anxiety Statistics, SingleCare.
https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/anxiety-statistics/

 

Becky Cotton, Lumio.
https://hellolumino.com/

 

Anxiety, fear, & panic, NHS.
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/anxiety-fear-panic/

 

Anxiety & panic attacks, Mind.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/symptoms/

 

Genetics of generalized anxiety disorder and related traits, Gottschalk, et al.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573560/

 

Does anxiety run in families, UNC Health Talk.
https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/does-anxiety-run-in-families/

 

The Impact of Anxiety and Depression on Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/blog/impact-anxiety-and-depression-patients-inflammatory-bowel-diseases

 

Protective and Risk Factors at the Intersection of Chronic Pain, Depression, Anxiety, and Somatic Amplification: A Latent Profile Approach, Kim, et al.
https://www.dovepress.com/protective-and-risk-factors-at-the-intersection-of-chronic-pain-depres-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-JPR

 

Is anxiety genetic, Healthline.
https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/is-anxiety-genetic#causes

 

Anxiety Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health.
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders#part_2222

 

Prevalence of post-traumatic symptomatology and anxiety among residential nursing and care home workers following the first COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Italy, Riello, et al.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7540798/

 

Caffeine Intake and Mental Health in College Students, O Bertasi, et al.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8099008/

 

Skipping Meals Is Associated With Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in U.S. Older Adults, Loretta Anderson.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7742741/

 

You Asked: Is It Bad for You to Read the News Constantly? Time Magazine.
https://time.com/5125894/is-reading-news-bad-for-you/

 

Laura Dane, Addiction Recovery Therapy.
https://www.addictionrecoverytherapy.co.uk/

 

Social Media and Mental Health, Help Guide.
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm

 

Sally Potter, Hypnotherapist.
https://alofthypnotherapy.com/

 

Protecting the brain against bad news, Robin Blades.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096381/

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Can Dehydration cause Anxiety?

Dehydration and Anxiety: Can Dehydration cause Anxiety?

However much you’ve read about drinking two litres of water a day, sometimes life gets busy and staying well hydrated moves down your list of priorities. But taking the time to drink a glass of water or make a cup of tea is actually one of the most important self-care activities you can do.

It’s recommended we drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day but that doesn’t have to mean water. Whilst water has tons of health benefits, tea, coffee and milk all count as part of your daily quest for hydration. Water performs many important functions in our body, such as helping our body get rid of waste via your kidneys, helps with brain function and helps keep your skin looking healthy. As a result, drinking enough fluids is really important for your physical and mental health

Dehydration happens when your body loses more fluid (from things like peeing and sweating) then you take in. Whilst we might all notice we’re dehydrated now and again, if it escalates dehydration can be a serious problem. Not only can dehydration cause physical health problems but it can also impact your mental health: research has found drinking less water (and therefore being at risk of dehydration) is linked to having greater tension and confusion.

But could being dehydrated be a cause for your anxiety? Let’s take a look at the connection.

Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash

How does dehydration cause anxiety?

Determining what comes first  is a kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. On the one hand, being anxious could increase your risk of dehydration, since you may simply forget to drink water regularly or neglect to notice the signs of dehydration when you’re frazzled. 

“Those experiencing poor mental health may become dehydrated due to prioritizing other things and people over their own wellbeing. Often, when we’re going through tough times, the first thing to drop down our list of priorities is taking good care of ourselves.” explains Certified Intuitive Eating Coach Peta Coote.

Lack of sleep due to anxious thoughts could also play a part in being dehydrated. Not only is there evidence that not getting enough sleep increases your risk of dehydration but you might also reach for coffee and energy drinks to help with fatigue if you’re not getting enough shut eye. Whilst coffee and energy drinks do count towards your fluid intake, they’re high in caffeine. There’s not conclusive scientific evidence but some people do notice that caffeine is a diuretic for them.  

“We may tend to reach for fast acting caffeine fixes to wake us up and help us feel more focused, however these aren’t going to hydrate us like water, fruit and veg will” adds Peta. When something is a diuretic, it makes you pee much more. This not only means a ton more bathroom trips but also that you lose more fluid and more are at risk of getting dehydrated.

It’s also worth pointing out you may already have an increased risk of dehydration if you have certain health conditions, such as diabetes or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

However, there’s research that suggests not drinking enough could also cause those anxious feelings or make them intensify. This is because we know that not drinking enough water increases your risk of becoming anxious with one study finding those who drank the least amount of water had twice the risk of developing anxiety and depression. 

Forgetting to drink as much water as usual can also play havoc with your mood: research has found that those who drank less water than they usually did felt less calm and more tense than usual when their water intake dropped. You don’t even have to be super dehydrated to notice your anxiety being impacted: research has found even mild dehydration can worsen your mood. 

When we’re dehydrated, it can impact a ton of different bodily functions and this includes your brain. Impaired brain function can lead to issues such as confusion, fatigue and worrying thoughts. “Our brains are made up of 75% water and because dehydration slows down circulation, less oxygen gets to your brain and then impacts cognitive function.” says Simone Thomas, Bioenergetics Practitioner and Nutritionist from Simone Thomas Wellness.

What are the signs that dehydration is making me anxious?

If you’ve found yourself in an anxiety spiral today, could dehydration be the culprit? Well you can start by taking a look at some of the signs that you’re actually dehydrated. The most tell-tale sign of dehydration is your pee colour: if it’s super dark yellow and is strong in smell, it’s very likely you’re actually dehydrated. If it’s pale yellow then you’re good to go! But there are other signs of dehydration to look out for too and these include: headaches; feeling dizzy; fatigue; feeling thirsty and a dry mouth. “Low mood, a lack of focus and ‘brain fog’ can all be consequences of not getting the water your brain and body needs to function well,” adds Simone Thomas.

Another way to figure out the connection is by tracking exactly how much water you’re drinking each day. Water tracking bottles are useful for this but you can also use an app like Bearable to help find the correlation between how many glasses of water you’ve had and changes in your mood, symptoms, energy levels, and even sleep.

How can I manage anxiety that’s worsened by dehydration?

As well as reaching for your usual anxiety-busting toolkit, treating your dehydration is key. Make hydration a priority for your day. If you know you’re not drinking enough, set reminders on your phone or Alexa every hour to remind you to grab a glass. You may also use this as an excuse to step away from your desk and take a short mental health break too.

Just because you’re not thirsty doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink water. “The key thing here is to drink throughout the day, not just when you remember or are thirsty, because by this point dehydration may have set in and you will be on catch up when you reach for a glass of water.” adds Simone Thomas.

If it’s the taste of water you find off-putting, remember that all fluids count so why not jazz up your water? Fruit infused water bottles are a great way to do this (although do make sure to check if the ingredients you use aren’t natural diuretics, such as cucumber and ginger). Simply add your favourite fruit and add to the bottle. The result is a naturally sweet water drink that’s good for you and saves you pennies. 

If you know that you drink things that may have a diuretic impact (such as caffeine or alcohol), then you may need to drink even more fluids to compensate. A good idea is to always drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink. You should also consider your caffeine intake: for most people, around 4-5 cups of tea or coffee a day should be safe, but you may find you need to alter this if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine.

Whilst staying hydrated isn’t a one-fix solution for anxiety, drinking enough water throughout the day is a simple, yet powerful way to support your overall mental health. It’s likely that your anxiety is impacted by several different triggers, so we always recommend using the Bearable app to monitor a range of different factors and symptoms of anxiety.

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

Sources in this article.

    1. Water, drinks and your health. NHS.
      https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/water-drinks-nutrition/

       

    2. Why Is Water Important? Healthline.
      https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/why-is-water-important#energy

       

    3. Dehydration. NHS.
      https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/

       

    4. Habitual total water intake and dimensions of mood in healthy young women. Muñoz, , et al.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25963107/

       

    5. Peta Coote, Certified Eating Psychology Coach accredited by the Complementary Medical Association.
      https://nourishingsoulfully.com/

       

    6. Hydration and Sleep. Sleep Foundation.
      https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/hydration-and-sleep

       

    7. Do coffee and tea really dehydrate us? BBC.
      https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140402-are-coffee-and-tea-dehydrating

       

    8. Why It’s Important to Stay Hydrated if You Have Crohn’s. Everyday Health.
      https://www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-disease/why-its-important-to-stay-hydrated-if-you-have-crohns

       

    9. Drinking plain water is associated with decreased risk of depression and anxiety in adults: Results from a large cross-sectional study. Haghighatdoost, et al.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6147771/

       

    10. Effects of Changes in Water Intake on Mood of High and Low Drinkers. Pross, et al.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984246/

       

    11. Even Mild Dehydration May Cause Emotional, Physical Problems. WebMD.
      https://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120120/even-mild-dehydration-may-cause-emotional-physical-problems

       

    12. Simone Thomas, Bioenergetics Practitioner and Nutritionist.
      https://simonethomaswellness.com/

       

    13. Natural Diuretics to Reduce Water Retention. Cleveland Clinic.
      https://health.clevelandclinic.org/natural-diuretics/

       

    14. Why you should always have a glass of water with every alcoholic drink. The Independent.
      https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/drinking-alcohol-water-health-b1880196.html

       

    15. The 7 best science-backed coping strategies for anxiety. Bearable.
      http://bearable.app/best-science-backed-coping-strategies-for-anxiety/

       

    16. Caffeine and anxiety: what’s the connection? Bearable.
      http://bearable.app/caffeine-and-anxiety/

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Can alcohol cause anxiety?

Can alcohol cause anxiety?

Published on October 4th 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether it’s a glass of wine after a stressful day or a few beers with your co-workers, many of us drink alcohol on a regular basis. In fact, around 60% of Americans drink alcohol, consuming just over 3 alcoholic drinks a week on average.  But does drinking alcohol impact those of us with anxiety differently?

Whilst many of us drink in moderation, we may notice a relationship between our anxiety and alcohol. Some people may gravitate to drinking more alcohol in periods of poor mental health whilst others may find their anxiety worsening when they drink it. According to research, those who drink alcohol are more likely to develop mental health issues and those with severe mental illness may be at more risk of alcohol problems

But what is the actual relationship between alcohol and anxiety? How does alcohol affect people with anxiety and can alcohol actually cause anxiety? Let’s find out…

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

How does alcohol affect your mental health?

Alcohol impacts our physical and mental health in lots of different ways. First up, it’s a diuretic; meaning it makes you pee more and can dehydrate you. Why is this important? Well, it turns out being dehydrated is a lot more common than you think: It’s thought that three-quarters of Americans are dehydrated and dehydration is often worse in people with poor mental health. This is because those who have a low or poor mood may often neglect basic tasks such as eating and drinking. There are also certain health conditions – such as diabetes or digestive issues – which put you more at risk of dehydration too.

If you’re already at risk of dehydration, alcohol may worsen the problem. Some studies have found a link between how hydrated you are and anxiety. One found that drinking more water and being more hydrated decreases your risk of anxiety.

But why else might alcohol not be ideal for your mental health? Well, anxiety also impacts your blood sugar levels.

“It can cause drops in blood sugar, which leads to adrenaline and cortisol being released; creating some feelings of anxiety,” explains Nutritionist Hannah Hope.

Ever find you have less of a hangover if you drink with a full meal? Well, this is why. If you’re going to drink, it’s often recommended to drink a glass of alcohol with a full meal to help slow this blood sugar release down.

What about if a glass of wine or a few beers is your go-to for feeling more relaxed? It does help reduce the time it takes us to actually fall asleep but this relaxed feeling doesn’t always last for very long; and we may then feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off.

“Initially, you may feel relaxed as alcohol is a sedative and you can feel that anxiety levels have dropped, but Alcohol can change levels of serotonin and anxiety can feel worse after you have stopped drinking it,” explains nutritionist Hannah Hope. Whilst you might drift off more quickly, you might notice a more restless night, since alcohol can also cause you to wake up more often.

A big problem arises when people then try to drink more alcohol (and even become dependent)  to stop their anxious feelings.

Is it okay for people with anxiety to drink alcohol?

Science suggests there are a few reasons why your anxiety may be worsened by alcohol and why it is not a great idea to drink it.

However, that doesn’t mean you can never have a glass of wine again.  Some people with anxiety may drink in moderation with no problem but it’s really important to be aware of the impact alcohol has on your mood.

Either way, frequently drinking alcohol when you’re prone to anxiety is really not a great idea.

“Long-term alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder as it reduces GABA tone, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Alcohol also suppresses Glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, but the body responds to this by making more Glutamate, and this can cause feelings of anxiety.” adds Hannah Hope.

If you find yourself relying on alcohol to feel less anxious or your anxiety levels increasing after you’ve finished drinking, it’s a sign to have a chat with your doctor who will be able to recommend other ways to cope with your anxiety.

Otherwise, we recommend tracking whether alcohol (or certain types of it) triggers your anxiety to find the balance that works for you.

What should you do if alcohol is a trigger for your anxiety?

The easy answer would be to say stop drinking it. But we know that sometimes life doesn’t work like that-whether that’s birthday parties, Christmas or just feeling like you need a glass of wine after a stressful week. You can, however, take active steps to cut down on the amount you drink.

“To ameliorate these feelings, try reducing the amount you drink or stop altogether.” If you can’t do that, spacing out drinks can really reduce the impact alcohol may have. “Make sure you are drinking a glass of water with each alcoholic drink, drinking with food or slowing down how fast you are drinking alcohol.” says Hannah Hope.

Being more aware of your mental health and triggers is really important to understand why you’re drinking. If you know you’re likely to be anxious today (or are in the middle of an anxiety attack) and that’s why you’re heading to the store to buy beer, then look for alternative coping strategies to manage your anxiety instead. These could include exercise, getting out in the fresh air or talking to a loved one.

If you find yourself drinking socially or because you just like the taste, it’s worth pointing out that there are a TON of amazing alcohol-free drinks on the market (in fact, the market is booming: sales of non-alcoholic wine and beer were up by $219 million last year) which offer all of the taste and none of the impacts alcohol brings. 

Finally, if you notice a relationship between your anxiety and alcohol but are unable to stop drinking, it is important you seek medical help from a doctor. If you’re in the UK, you can visit The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

So, can alcohol cause anxiety? Only you know how drinking impacts your anxiety but there are several reasons why moderating how much alcohol you drink is a good idea for your physical and mental health. If you’re not sure if alcohol is a trigger for your anxiety, you could also use the Bearable app to monitor your alcohol intake and its impact on your symptoms & mood.

Note. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

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Caffeine and anxiety: what’s the connection?

Caffeine and anxiety: what’s the connection?

Published on September 5th 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether you rely on coffee for a boost of energy when fatigue sets in or have a diet coke habit that you just can’t kick, you’re not alone. 

Caffeine, a natural stimulant that is found in a range of drinks such as coffee, tea and coca cola, is something a huge number of us consume regularly. In fact, over 300 million Americans drink coffee every single day, with an average consumption of 3 daily cups. 

This doesn’t even include other sources of caffeine-such as soda, iced tea or energy drinks, which many people don’t realise are high in caffeine.

“It’s worth noting that hot chocolate can also have a pretty high dose of caffeine in it,”  says BANT registered nutritionist Eva Humphries.


Caffeine isn’t always a bad thing – it can make us feel more alert and energised – and
has even been linked to lowering your levels of depression. Quantity is important too. The US Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (around 4 cups of coffee or around 10 cups of diet cola) safe for adults, suggesting those who are pregnant limit it to 200mg. 

However, caffeine has also been linked to anxiety, meaning it might not be a good idea if you live with symptoms of anxiety. Let’s unpick whether coffee can actually cause anxiety and why some people may look into managing anxiety with caffeine alternatives. 

Can caffeine cause anxiety?

First up, could too much caffeine be the reason you found yourself down an anxiety spiral this morning? Well, caffeine impacts the body in lots of different ways. One of these is that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for making us drowsy, so this action helps keep us awake (perfect if you’re trying to function on hardly any sleep or regularly deal with fatigue). This causes the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine to rise. These high dopamine levels have been linked to anxiety.

“Caffeine also raises cortisol and as cortisol is a stress hormone, that’s why caffeine could make stress and anxiety worse.” says nutritionist Eva Humphries.

Caffeine may increase your heart rate (which may trick you into thinking you’re actually in a state of panic) and whilst lower doses of caffeine make us more alert, higher doses may lead to more anxiety. For example, a recent study found college students with a greater caffeine intake were more likely to be anxious.

However, other research suggests that the impact coffee has on our mental health can actually really vary. After volunteers ingested caffeine and then completed an anxiety inventory 25 minutes later, it was found that caffeine only increased anxiety levels in men, whilst women were not impacted. This suggests it could be that females are potentially less sensitive to caffeine.

It’s not quite as simple as gender differences. You may also be more sensitive to caffeine if you’re already prone to anxiety. Almost 6 million Americans have panic disorder (characterised by regular panic attacks) and research has found they are particularly sensitive to the anxiogenic (e.g. the anxiety-inducing) effect of caffeine, with 5 cups of coffee causing a panic attack in a large percentage of those with the condition. 

“When we’re stressed and anxious already, there is already a lot of cortisol floating around so adding more via caffeinated beverages may only make things worse.” explains Eva Humphries.

But why does it feel like we can barely drink a cup without going into stress mode whilst others can handle more before they feel the effect?  Well, one thought is those who are more sensitive to caffeine, may metabolise it more slowly in the body, and it, therefore, causes them more issues.

“Some of us are slow caffeine metabolisers which means caffeine sticks around for longer and has a more acute impact.” adds Eva Humphries.

Should we switch to decaf if we’re experiencing anxiety? 🤔

If we know caffeine makes us more prone to anxiety, should we make the switch to coffee alternatives instead?

Well, you may not need to ditch caffeine completely but cutting down on your caffeine is often recommended if you’re prone to anxiety. Much of the research we mentioned focuses on coffee in larger quantities, so the occasional cup of coffee may cause you no issues.

 One clinical practice study found that the patients who substantially cut down on their caffeine drinking reported the greatest improvements in their anxiety, but also other common issues  – such as sleep disturbance and irritability, suggesting that managing anxiety with caffeine alternatives could certainly be an option for some of us.

However, there’s really no way of knowing how sensitive you are and what your caffeine tipping point is without experimenting with different levels of caffeine. Some may prefer to avoid the risk and opt for no caffeine at all whilst others may prefer to track things more closely. This is where keeping a symptoms diary and tracking your coffee intake may help to pinpoint if caffeine is an anxiety trigger.

Let’s be real though: for some of us, going caffeine-free just isn’t an option. We may rely on energy drinks or coffee to help keep us going through the day; particularly if we have a chronic illness and are low on spoons. If that’s you, then don’t despair, it turns out even switching your caffeine drink to the right time of day could make an impact.

 “I encourage the majority of my clients to reach for the coffee at midday rather than first thing. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is already naturally high in the morning because it is the same hormone that helps to wake us up. This naturally falls during the day so having a coffee at midday rather than first thing may not have such a negative impact.” explains nutritionist Eva Humphries.

If you’re reading this and can’t keep count of how many lattes you’ve had today, then it may be important for you to gradually switch over to decaf rather than purely go cold turkey. According to the American Psychiatric Association, caffeine withdrawal is actually classed as a mental disorder and symptoms can include impaired behaviour, increased heart rate, change in blood pressure and, ironically, anxiety itself.

“Caffeine withdrawal symptoms only last one or two days in most cases” advises Eva, and If you don’t drink as much, there is no reason why you can’t just cut it out cold.

“Unless there is a habitual coffee drinking that exceeds three cups a day, I encourage my clients to go cold turkey. There’s a lot of good quality decaf coffee and teas on the market now but for a totally caffeine-free version, chicory coffee has a similar flavour profile to freshly brewed coffee whilst herbal teas are another naturally caffeine-free option” she adds.

The verdict: are caffeine and anxiety connected? 💡

The relationship between anxiety and caffeine isn’t completely clear cut but there is plenty of science that suggests drinking coffee and other caffeine can make anxiety worse for some people, especially if you’re drinking a lot of it, and are particularly prone to anxiety or are more sensitive to this stimulant. 

You may not be able to completely ditch the coffee but monitoring and managing your caffeine intake could be one useful strategy in managing life with anxiety. Using the Bearable app can help you track just how much caffeine you’re consuming and the role it might be playing in changes in your anxiety symptoms.

Disclaimer. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if they’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

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The 7 best science-backed coping strategies for anxiety

The 7 best science-backed coping strategies for anxiety

Published on August 30th 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Chapters.
1. Pets | 2. Meditation | 3. Writing | 4. Movement | 5. Gardening | 6. B-Vitamins | 7. Fibre

Whether you live with specific forms of anxiety – such as health anxiety or social anxiety – or even general anxiety disorder, you’re definitely not alone.

Over 40 million people in the US (and 8 million people in the UK) struggle with anxiety and google recently reported that more and more of us are searching for advice on our mental health and finding the right coping mechanisms for anxiety.

Whilst you can’t necessarily banish anxiety forever, you can try to equip yourselves with the right coping skills for anxiety to help manage it more effectively- so you can get back to living your life instead. Here’s some of our favourite science-backed coping strategies for anxiety.

1. Spend time with a fluffy friend 🐕

Did you know spending time with your pet can actually help with anxiety? Being in contact with animals is thought to help calm our nervous system and there’s actually scientific proof that being close to animals is a good thing: one study involved a group of students spending ten minutes petting cats and dogs (our idea of heaven!) and found that this lowered their anxiety and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

This study shows you don’t need to own a pet to feel the benefits-you might offer to walk a neighbour’s dog or cat sit for your friend once a while. However, if owning a pet is possible for you it could be a good idea, since one survey even found owning a pet boosted your happiness by 22% on average.

2. Try a simple meditation 😌

We’ve all heard about mindfulness but can it actually help your anxiety? Well the science says yes. A huge overview of studies found that mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improving anxiety, one study in particular found meditation benefited the anxiety symptoms of general anxiety disorder, as well as coping with stress in general.

The good news is that meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting in silence for hours on end-hurrah! Turns out, meditation can be as simple as a few minutes focusing on one thought.

“Meditation is a fantastic tool in proactively taking care of our mental health. You can get started with just three minutes of mindfulness meditation through breathing. Bring your attention to the sensation of your breathing, notice filling up your lungs and your ribs, chest and lungs move. Counting can help you focus, so if you need to count your breathing, breathe in for five seconds, hold for 6 and then breathe out for 7 seconds,” says award-winning mindfulness teacher Amy Polly.

3. Pick up a pen ✍️

Another simple coping mechanism for anxiety is to write down your feelings. Sometimes this may be just a case of picking up a pen and seeing what comes out, whilst other times you might wish to use specific journal prompts. This can be particularly useful when combined with CBT, with an effective exercise being to ‘challenge’ a negative thought and then write down a more realistic alternative to replace it with.

If you’re not a ‘pen to paper’ type of person, then you can also use an app like Bearable to jot down what you are grateful for and any thoughts you’re currently feeling. The art of journaling for fifteen minutes a day three times a week has been shown to boost your mental wellbeing.

4. Workout to help your body and mind 🤸

Sometimes when we’re in an anxiety-hole, exercise is the last thing we feel like doing but it’s actually one of a few really useful coping strategies for anxiety. Not only does it give your body a boost of feel-good endorphins but it can help as a distraction from intrusive thoughts and provide routine as part of a self-care routine. Tons of studies have found evidence exercise positively impacts anxiety but it’s all about finding the right exercise for you.

Aerobic exercise (e.g. the type that gets your heart beating faster) is thought to be the most useful – think dancing around your living room or even power walking around the park – but yoga can help too: one study of 52 women found both anxiety and stress decreased significantly after 12 sessions of Hatha yoga.

As always, it’s important to work with your body and its physical capabilities: for example, you may choose to opt for adapted exercises, such as seated workouts, if you have mobility issues. For those with chronic fatigue, you may need to increase length and intensity of your exercise slowly-some people may find warm water exercises helpful as this provides less stress on the joints.

5. Get out in the garden 🪴

If we had a dollar for every time someone told us ‘just get out in the fresh air,’ we’d be able to hire a live-in therapist. Unsurprisingly, good mental health isn’t quite as simple as that but gardening can be a pretty great coping strategy for anxiety for a few reasons. It offers a real sense of accomplishment and purpose, and is a great excuse for a phone-free hour.

Gardening is much more affordable than many activities: forget an expensive gym membership, you just need a bit of green space! Whether you have a dedicated spot at your local allotment or just like tending to the flowers on your balcony, the benefits are still the same. In fact, even taking care of indoor plants is thought to help with stress.

Don’t worry if the act of gardening itself takes up too much energy however, simply being around green space more regularly can really help – a study by the University of Exeter found that those who moved to green areas in general (e.g. having more access to gardens and parks) improved their mental health.

6. The power of B vitamins 💊

Whilst we all aim to get the vitamins and minerals we need from a healthy diet, it’s not always possible, whether that’s due to dietary restrictions or fatigue meaning you just don’t have the energy to whizz up a superfood smoothie today. One group of vitamins that are often linked to our mental health are B vitamins. Biotin (otherwise known as B7) is known for helping your hair grow longer but it’s also been shown those who have higher levels of it had lower odds of getting anxiety of depression.

B1 and B5 also slash your anxiety risk and research has found B6 supplementation was found to reduce anxiety. This is because these vitamins are all involved in our brain function. The good news is you may not even need to supplement: one study that involved people tucking into yeast based spread had improved anxiety scores. Great news if you’re a marmite fan like us.

“Eating a varied diet should ensure you get the right levels of B vitamins as they are widely available in food. However. vegans need to supplement with B12 because it’s only found in animal products” explains Nutritional Therapist Anna Mapson

7. Fill your plate with high-fibre foods 🥦

There’s no one diet that can banish your anxiety but there has been some research that suggests some foods and drinks are more helpful than others. When we’re super anxious, we may instead skip meals and turn to sugary snacks, which isn’t ideal.

“Anxiety can be made worse with a high sugar diet that’s low in fibre as this causes blood sugar crashes. Opting for wholegrains and high fruit and vegetable intake keeps your diet high in fibre and helps to keep your blood sugars balanced which can help reduce anxiety,” explains Nutritional Therapist Anna Mapson of Goodness Me Nutrition.

You don’t necessarily have to follow this diet permanently but it could be an idea to eat a dinner or lunch that centres around these foods when you’re anxious, since whole grains, protein and veggies all help keep our blood sugar steady.

Track coping strategies for anxiety 🔍

We hope these simple science-backed tips have given you some ideas to get started in getting to grips with your anxiety and get back to living life to the fullest. Whichever of these strategies you choose to implement into your daily life, remember that you can use Bearable to learn how they impact your anxiety, mood, sleep, energy levels and any symptoms you’re experiencing.

Disclaimer. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

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