21/11/2016 09:30 GMT | Updated 21/11/2017 05:12 GMT

Why Do I Feel Anxious?

Anxiety: that inexplicable feeling similar to the one you get just before something bad happens in a scary film, as the foreboding music starts playing. Of course, anxiety can be triggered by a number of events, experiences or situations, but most prolonged periods of anxiety are underpinned by one or more of the following...

"I can't cope and I can't rely on anyone else"

Anxiety is the antithesis to the feeling that everything will be ok. Anxiety tends to take hold when you lose (or don't develop) a sense that if something goes wrong you'll be alright, and understandably life then easily becomes daunting and overwhelming.

We all need a sense of being supported - both of supporting ourselves and feeling that we would be supported by other people - in order to feel settled. I've referred to it as a 'sense' because ultimately the feeling that we will be ok no matter what is just that, a feeling, not a fact. However, the belief that we can cope or can rely on other people if we need help is a vital part of not feeling anxious. We carry this belief around with us like an invisible psychological security blanket which keeps our anxieties at bay in our day to day lives.

If you've had experiences that have eroded your sense of being able to cope or rely on others when you're in need, a period of anxiety is likely to follow. Those experiences could include a number of life events such as a relationship break-up, redundancy, a bout of ill health, bereavement, being let down by people close to you, feeling that you've failed in some way....these experiences (and others like them) are all likely to leave you feeling vulnerable and anxious for a while. Depending on the how much your belief has been eroded, you might feel generally anxious for a while, but it will pass in time. Just let yourself be open to new experiences that remind you that you can generally cope and that others can generally be relied upon.

You think there's something wrong with being anxious

Anxiety is a vital survival mechanism designed to keep us vigilant to danger and responsive when we're not safe. Even though it often has pretty bad timing, it is very (very) important and is there to protect us. The side effects of anxiety are often not particularly welcome though - being jittery, indecisive and easily startled often get a bad rap. Anxiety can also be linked to being out of control or 'off your game' in some way and, as a result, people will often find themselves feeling anxious about being anxious!

What starts off as a bit of anxiety becomes a lot of anxiety because you start worrying that you're losing control, 'going mad' or at high risk of something terrible happening. This tends to create a far more substantial period of anxiety than we experienced in the first place! Ultimately, we need to learn to make friends with anxiety, understand what it's trying to do and how to carry on with life as we want to, in spite of it.

You don't like uncertainty

Ok, so it's fairly safe to say that no-one particularly likes uncertainty; not knowing what's coming next is unsettling for anyone. However, if you've developed a particular dislike to not being certain of things, it can mean you're going to be more susceptible to feeling anxious because uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. The more we don't like uncertainty, the more we try to avoid the unknown by controlling things. Unfortunately, over time, that leaves us feeling less and less able to cope with uncertainty and more and more anxious and in fear of the elusive unknown.

Your brain's anxiety alarm was over stimulated as a child

Our mind has an alarm system (called the amygdala) which goes off when we perceive any sort of threat - emotional, psychological or physical - creating the feeling of anxiety. If our alarm system has been triggered a lot during our childhood when our brain is developing (by experiences that scared or startled us in some way), it can make us extra sensitive to threat and we can carry around an on-going underlying anxiety that can easily flare up with relatively small triggers. This can be worked on though and there are plenty of things you can do to soothe your amygdala so that it becomes less reactive over time.

For more information on understanding and managing anxiety go to