Anxiety and PH needn’t go hand in hand
Getting diagnosed with a life-long condition like PH is understandably stressful, to put it mildly. The uncertainty and lack of control can lead to a number of mental health issues, not least anxiety. Understanding what anxiety is and how its symptoms can be managed, allows those faced with a diagnosis of PH the ability to focus on what’s truly important: how to move forward with their diagnosis and lead a fulfilled life.
Anxiety UK and the PHA work closely to help PHA members who want to learn more about anxiety and how Anxiety UK can support them.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the feeling one has when they think that something unpleasant is going to happen in the future. Other words such as feeling ‘apprehensive’, ‘uncertain’, ‘nervous’ and ‘on edge’ also provide a good description of feelings linked to anxiety.
Anxiety is completely normal and something that all human beings experience from time to time, regardless of age or sex. The word ‘anxiety’ is often used to cover a broad range of experiences and is linked with emotions such as fear and worry. In fact, ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ are almost interchangeable terms.
Anxiety itself can be a helpful emotion, as it can help one to prepare for events and improve performance. However, anxiety can become so severe and intense at times that it becomes debilitating and starts to restrict daily routine and life as a whole. In essence, at this point, the anxiety experienced has got out of proportion and one ends up feeling much more anxious than they would expect someone else to be in their circumstances.
Symptoms of anxiety
People often experience physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms when they feel anxious or stressed.
Some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety are:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Increased muscle tension
- “Jelly legs”
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Wanting to use the toilet more often
- Feeling sick
- Tight band across the chest area
- Tension headaches
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Choking sensations
A number of the above physical symptoms are also symptoms of PH, which can be particularly difficult for sufferers.
Some of the most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are:
- Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
- Thinking that you might die
- Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
- Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
- Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
- Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
- Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
- Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you
The most common behavioural symptom (the things we do when we are anxious) is avoidance. Although avoiding an anxiety provoking situation produces immediate relief from the anxiety, it is only a short term solution. This means that whilst it may seem like avoiding is the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety often returns the next time that you face the situation and avoiding it will only psychologically reinforce the message that there is danger.
How can anxiety be treated and can it be managed?
As anxiety can affect individuals in many ways, the method for treating it can also vary. The NHS’ Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme provides guidance on what level of intervention is recommended based on the severity of the person’s anxiety.
Generally speaking, an individual should be offered self-help in the first instance, followed by more intense interventions, such as talking therapy or medication.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most prescribed talking therapy for those with anxiety difficulties who do not respond to things like self help. CBT currently has the largest amount of research carried out on its effectiveness and focuses on what people think, how those thoughts affect them emotionally and how they ultimately behave. When someone is distressed or anxious, the way they see and evaluate themselves can become negative. CBT therapists work alongside the person to help them begin to see the link between negative thoughts and mood. This empowers people to assert control over negative emotions and to change the way they behave. CBT has grown in popularity following recommendations from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
About Anxiety UK
Anxiety UK is the nation’s leading anxiety disorders charity and provides a range of services to those affected by anxiety. These include a vibrant online community, a national helpline and access to quick, reduced cost therapy, including CBT, counselling and clinical hypnotherapy.
Anxiety UK and PHA’s partnership provides additional support to those who are affected by anxiety, whether that be someone with a diagnosis of PH or their loved one.
Anxiety UK are providing members of PHA UK with a variety of services and resources including:
- A dedicated helpline service
- An email support service (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Assessment and therapy provision for those experiencing anxiety
- Training & resources for PHA UK staff and members
To speak to someone about how it is affecting you or a loved one, please call us on 0844 332 9010 or visit www.anxietyuk.org.uk.