Anxiety is a word we hear a lot these days, and in the UK, it is among the most common mental health disorders. In fact, a little over 1 in 10 of us will be living with an anxiety disorder at any one time, that’s over 8 million Brits*, and less than half of these people will access help or treatment. And with the impact that Covid-19 has had on the mental health of so many in recent years, we thought it was time we took a look at it.

In the UK poor mental health is the main cause of long-term absence from work, employers said in a recent Deloitte Mental Health Report. Anxiety, stress and antidepressant use are at an all-time high and this costs the UK a staggering £56 billion per year - according to the same report last year. So isn’t it time we understood anxiety better, instead of allowing sufferers to do so in silence?

So, what is Anxiety?

Anxiety is classed as the mind and body's natural reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations, commonly known as the ‘fight or flight response’. It's the sense of unease, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event and it’s perfectly normal in certain situations, like before exams, starting a new job, or even meeting new people. And on a positive note, a certain amount of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware.

But how does someone’s natural worries turn into a full scale anxiety disorder? The problem occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. So it’s hardly surprising that there has long been an association between raised or impaired regulation/control of cortisol levels and psychiatric conditions, like anxiety and depression.

Many things can trigger anxiety, and being neurodiverse or having a learning difficulty can increase the impact on someone’s mental health, because those affected can feel like they just ‘don’t fit in’.

What causes Anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by your background, genetics or your environment, but also by events and life experiences that happen to us. Commonly women during pregnancy, after child birth or going through the menopause, whose hormones are out of balance, can also start to suffer with high levels of anxiety. Alcohol, drugs and caffeine can have a heightened effect of anxiety for some people also. However, sometimes nothing at all can trigger anxiety which can mean it’s harder to pinpoint and therefore resolve.

Everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different, and not everyone who has an anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms.

What do the symptoms look like?

There are many possible symptoms of anxiety, both physical and psychological, such as: 

  • Racing thoughts
  • Uncontrollable over-thinking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of dread and panic
  • Irritability
  • Heightened alertness 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes to your appetite 
  • Sweating, hot flushes and blushing
  • Racing heartbeat and heavy/fast breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Hair loss
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Headaches, dizziness and fainting
  • Stomach aches, nausea and sickness

There are quite a few different types of anxiety disorders, such as:

  • GAD - Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which is the most common and can affect your daily life. The main symptom is excessive worrying about different events and activities, and you may feel anxious or ‘on edge’ a lot of the time. This may affect your ability to work, travel and leave the house, as well as your energy levels, sleep and concentration.
  • Panic Disorder - which means you may have regular panic attacks with no specific trigger. They can happen suddenly and feel very intense and scary, and are often accompanied by chest pains similar to those of a heart attack.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder - also known as social phobia, is when you will have an intense fear or dread of social situations; this can happen before, during or after a particular event. You may be worried about saying/doing something embarrassing which can cause you to sweat, shake or have a racing heartbeat.
  • Health anxiety - the constant worry that you are ill or will get ill.
  • Phobias - such as agoraphobia or phobias of animals, heights, dentists etc.
  • Related to anxiety disorders are things such as OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), skin picking or hair pulling.

Treatments for Anxiety

There are lots of different treatments and support for someone with anxiety, such as medication and talking therapies. 

  • Talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help you understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
  • Applied relaxation - a trained therapist will teach you how to relax your body in a different way, e.g., to help you fall asleep more easily.
  • Medications such as antidepressants or SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which are most commonly diagnosed for anxiety, Benzodiazepines for extreme cases and Beta blockers to tackle the physical signs of anxiety like rapid heartbeat or shaking.
  • Complementary therapies such as yoga, hypnotherapy and mindfulness.
  • Assistive Technology, like Inspiration 10, can help combat anxiety within your work, studies or homelife.

A couple of years ago we met Shannon who uses Inspiration and cites it as the reason her panic attacks went away. She says Inspiration was a stress-reliever for her and helped her confidence; read more from her here: "My panic attacks went away with Inspiration" (

Now more than ever we need to increase people's awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information and tips that can help prevent it from becoming a problem. But we also need to keep up the pressure to demand change - making sure that improving mental health is a key priority for all of society.

If anxiety is affecting your concentration, there are virtual mapping tools out there such as Inspiration 10 that can help you by allowing you to get your thoughts out quickly. Mind Mapping itself also helps by aiding recall and memory. You can try it today for free in our 30-day full feature trial.


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