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What is Anxiety?

I am often consulted for help with all sorts of anxiety problems or disorders at my practice near Cosham, just outside Portsmouth. I have successfully helped many people with anxiety and/or panic problems using the appropriate therapy for their individual needs.

The most common type of anxiety I help people with is known as social anxiety. Almost as common is general anxiety or ‘generalised anxiety disorder’, GAD for short. This is a near constant anxiety without there being a specific ‘object’ of fear (as with a phobia, say). We just feel ‘edgy’ a lot of the time without knowing why. Or we may have a sense of ‘something bad about to happen’. We may worry about a lot of things. Or we may say we’re ‘an anxious person’ or ‘I am a worrier, I can’t help it’ or ‘It’s just the way I am’.

None of those statements are true though. This is NOT something we have to live with or that we can’t change. It’s more accurate to say that we feel anxious, or we worry, when there’s no real need to, and we can change that.


What is Anxiety?

Firstly, it is part of our survival (fight/flight/freeze) response. It is our physical experience – those butterflies in the tummy, or a tight chest, say – of our brain warning us of possible threat or danger (to life and limb). All sorts of people and events in our everyday life can activate this response. We are usually not aware of how or why. All we are aware of is the result – feeling anxious, worried, or panicky. Almost always there is no real threat or danger present, so why are we feeling anxious?

Common symptoms

Here is a list of common anxiety related symptoms.

  • Having sweaty palms and/or a dry mouth around others
  • A racing heartbeat and ‘butterflies in our tummy’
  • A tight chest and/or difficulty speaking
  • Problems making good eye contact with others
  • Worrying about what other people are thinking about us
  • A feeling or sense of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m less than’
  • Performance anxiety (driving test, exams, sex, sport etc)
  • A general worry of social situations
  • Feeling nervous around, or disliking, authority figures


The following common problems are also often related to underlying anxiety.

  • Perfectionism and/or procrastination = fear of making mistakes
  • Frequent tension headaches and/or muscle tension
  • Being a ‘people-pleaser’ (to avoid conflict and/or rejection)
  • Feelings of ‘stress’ – feeling ‘stressed out’
  • A dislike, fear, or avoidance of ‘confrontation’
  • Needing drink, or drugs, to help relaxation / unwinding
  • Comfort eating / binge eating
  • Sleep problems / insomnia
  • Chronic indigestion and/or IBS
  • Paying excessive attention to our personal appearance – face, hair, clothes, shoes
  • Having catastrophic thoughts about many things, that may or may not happen

What causes Anxiety?

Anxiety is in fact part of our survival response. It is our physical experience of our brain’s ‘early warning system’ of impending threat or danger (to life and limb). All sorts of people, experiences and events in our everyday life can activate an anxiety response without us really being aware of the ‘triggers’. We are usually only aware of the result – feeling anxious, worried, or panicky. Of course, almost always there is no real threat or danger present, so why are we feeling anxious?

Neuroscientific research over recent decades has found that the feeling of anxiety is caused by having a dysregulated nervous system. This is most often caused by past events which have been negative, distressing, emotionally overwhelming, or traumatic in some way. Because of this, these events dysregulate our nervous system. It stays dysregulated if we cannot properly process what has happened.

The Limbic System

Furthermore, we store the emotional memories of such event(s)in a part of the brain called the limbic system. Parts of our limbic system activate our survival response. So, being in our survival response causes the feelings of anxiety. We may have forgotten the negative events by the time we develop anxiety problems. As a result, we won’t be able to connect the past events to our current anxiety. Some of us do remember the negative events very well but we still tend not to connect them to our anxiety problems.

Thus, a dysregulated nervous system causes inner discomfort and that sense of ‘something bad about to happen’. Often, we will not be aware of any inner discomfort, because the way we feel inside is our ‘normal’. Anxiety is sometimes called ‘irrational fear’.  When specific things trigger anxiety responses this is termed ‘havinga phobia. In addition, sometimes anxiety may escalate to real feelings of panic or feeling out of control.

What Causes Panic?

The intense feelings of panic are caused when we are fully ‘triggered’ into our survival response. Usually this happens in an otherwise ordinary, everyday situation. Triggers are usually ‘sensory experiences’ (i.e. a sight, sound, smell, taste, action, or bodily sensation) which somehow remind the limbic system of our unresolved emotional memories. Triggers can be diverse, so it can be difficult to pinpoint them although we can work on this. Of course, the vast majority of everyday situations are not actually life-threatening, so we do not need a survival response. However once triggered, our limbic system will still ‘sound the alarm’ As if we are in real danger. We are vulnerable to all sorts of triggers until we properly resolve the emotional conflict or trauma.

Over time, anxiety or panic may increase to the point where it can have a significant impact on our life. Thus, it is quite common to gradually limit or control our lifestyle in an attempt to avoid, as far as possible, any situations which might ‘trigger’ our anxiety or panic.

Therapy help

Some therapies, including Suggestion Therapy, counselling, CBT, NLP and EFT (tapping), can offer some relief by aiming for a control of anxiety symptoms. Therapists usually achieve this by the input of positive suggestions, or teaching coping mechanisms or other tools/techniques. However, this often isn’t enough and many people prefer to aim for a resolution to the underlying causes – the unresolved emotions, and experiences.


How can I help?

I offer different approaches to help anxiety. The choice of which one (or more) to take depends on the individual and their circumstances. We usually make the decision together during the initial consultation.

Please browse my site for information on the various therapies / approaches that I practise.


CHANGE YOUR LIFE for the better.  Contact me now

"Participating in the Thrive programme empowered me to deal with anxiety and mild depression effectively. When I initially started the programme, I felt low, overwhelmed and that my levels of anxiety were unmanageable. As this was a problem that I felt I had had for quite some time, I wanted something that would help me manage this long-term, rather than go on medication for a few months with the possibility of finding myself back at square one as soon as I finished. Thrive was exactly that. Thanks to what I learned through Thrive, I now feel that I have the ability to manage my levels of stress and anxiety by effectively dealing with my negative thought processes. I am no longer overcome by feelings of negativity, and when I do start to feel negative I know that I can stop these negative thoughts from getting the better of me, something which I would have struggled with previously. I would highly recommend the Thrive programme to anyone who wishes to make a significant change in their life and who wishes to make that change in a self-empowering way."

Treatment with Nigel at Portsmouth Hypnotherapy can help to resolve your problems.

To contact Nigel for a confidential discussion, or to book your free 30 minute Initial Consultation please contact Nigel on mobile 07702 042220


There will be a nominal charge of £20.00 if the initial consultation lasts more than 30 minutes. Skype consultations also available.

Hypnotherapy Portsmouth - providing professional therapy services to the people of Portsmouth, Cosham, Drayton, Havant, Hayling Island, Waterlooville, Fareham and Gosport.

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