In the Top Ten Google Searches; ‘What is Anxiety?’

The term 'what is anxiety?' has been revealed as in the top 10 most searched for questions in the UK this year.

Anxiety UK received more than 12,000 calls to its helpline last year, several of whom contacted them after a google search.

Anxiety is a normal, if unpleasant, part of life, and it can affect everyone in different ways and at different times. Stress however is something that will come and go as the external factor causing it (perhaps work, relationships or a specific event) comes and goes. Anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to the sufferer.

Anxiety can exacerbate factors in a person’s life and make them imagine or feel that things in their life are worse than they really are. Often they will think they are going mad, or that some psychological imbalance is at the heart of their woes. It is important though that anxiety is recognised as normal and exists due to a set of bodily functions that have existed in us from our cave-man days.

For some people they have an identifiable cause for their anxiety; a traumatic incident, lots of stressors or have undergone a significant life event (surgery, loss, change in relationship). However, some people don’t have an identifiable cause for their anxiety and it causes them distress.

The most common thing we do when we are anxious is avoidance (a behavioural symptom). Although avoiding an anxiety inducing situation can produce immediate relief from the anxiety, it is a short term solution only.

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. Avoiding it will only reinforce the message that there is danger. The problem with avoidance is that you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation and what would happen is actually true.

A report by The Office for National Statistics in 2013 found that nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.

There was evidence of anxiety or depression in 19% of people aged 16 or over, with 21% of women reporting the symptoms and 16% of men.

Higher levels of mental health illness were recorded by people who were not in paid work – 23% reported they were experiencing mental health issues, compared with 15% of those in paid work.

It has been argued that people with an anxiety disorder should be offered psychological interventions as a first-line treatment in preference to drug treatment. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), for example, has been specifically developed to treat social anxiety disorders in adults, children and young people.