It is perfectly normal to feel anxious from time to time but when our anxiety levels become abnormal they can have a detrimental effect on our everyday lives.

The physical sensations associated with anxiety are strongly linked to our ‘fight or flight’ response. This is usually triggered when we are in a situation that we perceive as dangerous or stressful, although these situations are different for everyone. For example, most people can easily walk into the supermarket and do their shopping, but for a person suffering from social anxiety disorder this would present itself as a ‘dangerous’ situation and thus trigger the fight or flight response.


In our ancestors the fight or flight response was extremely useful in hunting or avoiding predators or when competing for mates. It can be characterised by an increase in muscle tension, which in turn leads to an increase in breathing rate which oxygenates the blood to a higher level than normal. The heart then has to beat faster to transport the blood around the body, and in particular blood will flow into the limbs from the digestive system (triggering the sensation of ‘butterflies’). Other physiological changes might also be experienced, such as nausea or sweating. Unfortunately, the fight or flight response in the modern world is sometimes maladaptive. Furthermore, due to it being controlled by one of the most primeval parts of our brain it is a rather over simplified system. This means that it cannot distinguish between an internal even or an external one. Therefore we do not have to actually even be in a situation of ‘danger’ to trigger it!! Simply worrying about a future event or ruminating over a past event can be enough to trigger fight or flight!

Anxiety can present itself in various ways. In response to stress it can present itself in sudden bursts, or it can build up over a period of days. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a more long term and chronic condition where anxiety is experienced on a daily basis. Panic disorder is characterised by sudden, and often without warning, panic attacks that can last up to ten minutes or more. And then we have anxiety that is associated with phobias, such as social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety disorder is more common that one might think but it presents itself with differing levels of severity. Why not have a go at answering the following questions to see if any of them relate to you?

  • Do you worry excessively about what others think of you?
  • Do you think about what things might go wrong, ahead of time?
  • Do you dwell on things after the event has taken place?
  • Do you find yourself mumbling and getting your words mixed up or unable to make eye contact with others?
  • Are you hyper-aware of yourself? For example, being aware of everything you say and do to such an extreme that you sometimes do not hear what others might be saying to you.
  • Do you avoid social situations or always play it safe? For example, talking only to ‘safe’ people about ‘safe’ topics?
  • Do you experience physiological reactions such as heart racing, breathlessness, sweating, blushing, nausea or aches and pains when confronted with social situations?

Answering yes to any of these questions may indicate even a mild form of social anxiety disorder. Answering yes to all of them however may indicate a more severe form.

I combine hypnotherapy with cognitive-behavioural-therapy techniques to maximise our chances of rapid therapeutic success at overcoming your anxiety disorder!

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