Everyone feels stressed and anxious at some point in their life, and it is perfectly natural to do so. Stress is a natural response to threats that can increase awareness and trigger a fight-or-flight response.
Senses can become sharper while stress hormones cause the heart to beat faster, pumping blood to the limbs and organs to help you deal with the danger. Anxiety is a sense of worry or fear over things that are happening or may happen in the future. It can be a response to stress but it can also seem to appear out of nowhere.
Anxiety can also be useful – worrying about an upcoming exam can help you to prepare for example, but stress and anxiety can both get out of control.
Anxiety and Stress affect Physical and Mental Health
Millions suffer from severe anxiety, including anxiety disorders every year. According to the NHS, up to 1 in 20 people in the UK suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Additionally, according to one recent national survey nearly three quarters (74%) of adults in the UK said they had felt so stressed over the previous year that they felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’.
Isabella Goldie, director of UK charity the Mental Health Foundation, described stress as “one of the great public health challenges of our time”. She said that stress was a major factor in both physical and mental health problems, adding: “Individually we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.”
So how can we help someone who is suffering from stress and anxiety? There are a number of things you can do (and some you should avoid) if a loved one is suffering from these aspects of mental health.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
The person involved might not always recognise or admit to the extent of their stress and anxiety.
Excessive stress and anxiety can lead to a number of physical and psychological symptoms including:
- – Sweating
- – Nausea
- – Headache
- – Nervous twitching
- – Muscle tension
- – Low energy
- – Changes in appetite
- – Decreased sexual function and desire
- – Insomnia
- – Feeling edgy or restless
People with anxiety may have persistent worries and fears, believing the worst will happen, and can even turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for their anxiety. They may experience panic attacks, although this is not the case for everyone suffering from anxiety. Anxiety can also be the main symptom of several diagnosable conditions including phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder.
Helping someone to cope with Stress and Anxiety in different situations
If someone you know is suffering from stress and anxiety one of the most helpful things you can do is let them know you are there for them, but without putting undue pressure on them. It’s important to let them know they can talk to you in their own time but constantly pressuring them to take certain steps or talk about their stresses and anxiety can add to a feeling of being overwhelmed and could actually be counterproductive.
Instead, try to listen to their own thoughts about how you can support them. This may mean talking directly about their issues but it could also involve breaking a task they are anxious about into small steps or simply distracting them from their worries for a while. Keep the lines of communication open but don’t make everything revolve around the person’s anxiety.
At the same time there’s a balance to be struck when it comes to making sure you don’t enable the person’s anxieties. Making all their phone calls, for example, could relieve pressure on them in the short term but could also end up fuelling the anxiety in the long run and prevent them from completing tasks that they are capable of doing.
Mental Health and Addiction
While some prescription medications can be extremely valuable in treating anxiety disorders, trying to self-medicate or deal with the symptoms of stress and anxiety with alcohol and drugs is never a good idea. There is a complex interplay between drugs, alcohol and mental health.
In some cases an existing mental health condition can lead to substance misuse or addiction and this in turn can make the initial problem worse or alter its course in various ways. Conversely substance misuse may cause undue stress and trigger or exacerbate mental health issues, including anxiety.
Even undergoing an overwhelmingly positive step like rehabilitation can be a very stressful time and the withdrawal symptoms associated with the detoxification process can certainly include stress and anxiety. This doesn’t make addiction treatment something to be avoided.
In the long run an unchecked addiction is only ever bad for your mental health and co-existing addiction and mental health issues can often be successfully treated at the same time. This is generally known as dual diagnosis, dual disorder or co-morbidity treatment. It can be very useful in terms of relapse prevention as addressing one part of the equation without treating the other can easily lead to a reoccurrence of the other problem.
Treatment for Stress and Anxiety
It can be very valuable for a person struggling with stress and anxiety to have a support network of friends and loved ones around them, but sometimes they may need more professional help.
If you are suffering from an addiction and mental health problem, at Asana Lodge we can offer you residential treatment for anxiety-related disorders and addiction recovery as part of a dual diagnosis treatment programme.
Treatments will usually include a range of therapies including one to one counselling, group therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). At Asana Lodge we can also offer innovative treatments such as Satori Chair Therapy.
If you want to help someone suffering from stress and anxiety, we can offer confidential advice and may also be able to start the ball rolling on a family referral. Contact us today to find out more.Back to all posts