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Did you know there are hidden causes of anxiety?  The problem is sometimes we don’t realise this and the anxiety can take control without us realising.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve had what should have been a relaxing weekend, and on Sunday evening, you settle down to watch something on Netflix…… Bam! Out of the blue, your heart starts racing, and you get a sinking feeling of doom. You feel anxious, but if anyone asks you why, you can’t say—it’s just hit you.  

Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence. I’ve experienced it myself, and so have many people I have worked with. You’re not alone in this.

Hidden causes of anxiety

Often, what happens next is that we go into the thinking part of the brain to find reasons why we feel anxious, and thoughts pop up.

  • Did I lock the front door?  
  • I did a bad job at work last week – I am in so much trouble
  • Is my friend talking to me?  Did I upset her?
  • I have a headache – am I seriously ill (followed by a google search for “headaches”) 

This is how the overthinking spiral starts, and if you have been stuck in this, you will know that thinking your way out of anxiety often doesn’t work!  

True Emotion vs False Mood

One thing I often do with clients is talk about the concept of True Emotion and False Mood

True emotions are natural and healthy responses to events. For example, grief following a bereavement, anger hearing of injustice, or joy hearing happy news are examples of true emotions.

False moods are these feelings that pop up out of nowhere (like sudden anxiety when there’s no danger), and although they aren’t based in reality, they can still have a significant effect on you.  When you are in the grip of anxiety, it doesn’t matter if you are really in danger or not if your body is reacting as though you are.  You feel awful.

It is often impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of false mood (most likely, it’s a culmination of a few things), but I frequently check in with clients about some factors that could be causing it.

THREE Common causes of false anxiety

Here are a few common causes of false anxiety

Lifestyle factors
  • Diet – Research shows a diet high in processed food can cause mood swings.  Fluctuations in blood sugar can leave you feeling anxious and restless
  • Caffeine – Too much caffeine can cause anxiety. Did you know there is a medical diagnosis of “caffeine-induced anxiety disorder”?
  • Sleep – a lack of sleep can disrupt hormones and neurotransmitters, leaving you vulnerable to anxiety.
  • Posture – many of us sit hunched over desks or slumped on the sofa, and this increases anxiety by making breathing more shallow.  Also, hunching is a defensive posture that communicates to the brain we are being defensive.  If this sounds strange, I challenge you to test it out now.  Stand up, put your shoulders back, hold your head high, and smile.  Hold that for 30 seconds and notice if your mood changes.
Medical conditions.  

There are a few medical conditions that can mimic anxiety, such as

  • Asthma
  • Heart problems
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Adrenal problems.

In addition to this, some medicines can cause anxiety as a side effect, for example, corticosteroid drugs or even decongestant medications for colds.

If you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, it might be a good idea to get a quick check-up with your GP to rule out any medical problems out.

Hormones 

Many women find their symptoms of anxiety fluctuate with their monthly cycle, and other women find that anxiety starts for the first time or gets worse around perimenopause or menopause.  This isn’t surprising as oestrogen affects mood and brain function.

In my experience, there isn’t usually a single cause of anxiety but rather several factors that combine.  Knowing some of your triggers can help you to manage it better and make it easier to cope. 

The key is to notice where you are experiencing false mood and try not to identify with it too much and make the anxiety worse.

For example, you notice your anxiety is worse and realise you haven’t slept well the past few nights, have had more coffee than usual to manage the tiredness, and in addition, you realise your period is due. Instead of getting stuck in a loop of worry and overthinking, you decide to prioritise an early night, limit your caffeine intake, and remind yourself that you will feel better in a couple of days once your hormones level out.

In counselling, part of what we do is help you become more aware of your triggers and how you experience them so you then have more choice in how to deal with them.

If you’d like to find out more about working with me please contact me

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