Anxiety Coping Mechanisms

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and its theme for 2014 was Anxiety. (Next year’s theme will be on Relationships).

Anxiety is one of the more common issues that I work with in my practice. It is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression at some point in our life.

A YouGov survey of 2,300 adults in Britain was carried out for Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 and it revealed that:

Almost one in five people feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time.
Only one in twenty people never feel anxious.
Women are more likely to feel anxious than men.
The likelihood of feeling anxious reduces with age.
Students and people not in employment are more likely to feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time.
Financial issues are a cause of anxiety for half of people, but this is less likely to be so for older people.
Women and older people are more likely to feel anxious about the welfare of loved ones.
Four in every ten employed people experience anxiety about their work.
Around a fifth of people who are anxious have a fear of unemployment.
Younger people are much more likely to feel anxious about personal relationships.
Older people are more likely to be anxious about growing old, the death of a loved one and their own death.
The youngest people surveyed (aged 18 – 24) were twice as likely to be anxious about being alone than the oldest people (aged over 55 years).
One fifth of people who have experienced anxiety do nothing to cope with it.
The most commonly used coping strategies are talking to a friend, going for a walk, and physical exercise.
Comfort eating is used by a quarter of people to cope with feelings of anxiety, and women and young people are more likely to use this as a way of coping.
A third of the students in the survey said they cope by ‘hiding themselves away from the world’.
People who are unemployed are more likely to use coping strategies that are potentially harmful, such as alcohol and cigarettes.
Fewer than one in ten people have sought help from their GP to deal with anxiety, although those who feel anxious more frequently are much more likely to do this.
People are believed to be more anxious now than they were five years ago.
There is a tendency to reject the notion that having anxious feelings is stigmatising.
People who experience anxiety most frequently tend to agree that it is stigmatising.
Just under half of people get more anxious these days than they used to and believe that anxiety has stopped them from doing things in their life.
Most people want to be less anxious in their day-to-day lives.
Women and younger people are more likely to say that anxiety has impacted on their lives.
Anxiety is a symptom that can have a multitude of causes. It can be in response to specific issues or experiences, or a general feeling of overwhelm and feeling unsafe in the World.

Anxiety can be exacerbated by feelings of worry and concern about the anxiety symptoms themselves. This can start a reinforcing cycle of avoidance, withdrawal and inward focus on our anxious sensations and how to get away from them.

The statistics show how anxiety is becoming an increasing problem in the U.K. And I don’t think this is a surprise as society trends, media messages, demanding schedules, general economic instability and uncertain futures can all contribute to feelings of overwhelm and insecurity.

However, there are a number of coping mechanisms that can be used to help with anxiety.

I’ve put together a website to help with a number coping mechanisms for anxiety at

Many of these include building an awareness of causes, the harmlessness of symptoms and lifestyle changes.

The other main mechanisms involve understanding why we might feel overwhelmed or unsafe and using counselling tools and approaches to develop helpful thoughts, behaviours and actions.

We can then ultimately learn how to reassure ourselves and build inner resilience and confidence that we can handle ourselves and the World in general; letting go of the things that can’t be controlled or changed.

With these tools under our belt we can actually free ourselves to be stronger and happier than before – personal growth that has come from working through and understanding our anxiety.