What Causes Anxiety?
Clare Jacobson a specialist clinical psychologist at Guy's Hospital, discusses what anxiety is and what can cause it.Watch more videos like this
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, and is often a response to challenging or threatening events and scenarios – for example an upcoming job interview.
Often these feelings are short-term, but for ongoing events and situations, such as being diagnosed with a brain tumour and undergoing treatment, these feelings may persist. Anxiety can be mild or severe, constant or intermittent, for example, when waiting for the results of a scan.
It’s important to realise that feeling anxious is a normal, if unpleasant, part of life and whatever your level of anxiety, you’re not alone. Many people with brain tumours will feel anxious at some point and there’s a lot of support available.
While feeling anxious is completely natural, if anxiety starts to impact your daily life, it could be indicative of an anxiety disorder. You should not feel reluctant to talk to your GP about anxiety if you’re worried about how it is affecting you.
If you are affected by a brain tumour and feel you cannot cope with your current situation, you can call our Support & Information Line.
If you need someone to talk to outside office hours, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.
There are many symptoms of anxiety and not everybody will experience the in the same way. Some people have only 1 or 2, while others have many more or experience individual symptoms more severely.
The following are common physical symptoms of anxiety:
There are many ways to help deal with your anxiety. Here are some simple tips on coping with anxiety, taken from the experiences of patients, friends, family and carers.
Find the one which works best for you.
It seems simple, but keeping busy can be a good way to keep your mind off your worries. Many people have found that starting a new hobby, taking a trip or having a day out are great distractions, while something as straightforward as reading a book, watching a film or spending time with loved ones can be a positive way to keep anxiety at bay.
Talking to others in a similar situation can be a powerful tool to help reduce your anxieties and gain support. We currently run four closed Facebook groups for people affected by a brain tumour and they can be great place for you to start.
We recognise the unique challenges that different people face when living with a brain tumour and have support groups for:
You may also like to share your story more widely. This may not only be therapeutic for you, but may help others who have similar worries and anxieties.
Of course, sharing widely may not be for you, but talking to selected others can still help and chatting with a close friend who isn’t in the same situation can provide a fresh perspective. Do what feels right for you!
While mindfulness may not be for everyone, it has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety in some people living with brain tumours.
Mindfulness will naturally be difficult to begin with, but it does get easier with practice - the key is to stick at it and keep trying. It’s important to remember there’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness.
The NHS provides several tips on their website on how to practice mindfulness:
You may find it difficult to ‘be in the moment’ and practice being mindful, but there are a number of tools that can help. Sitting meditation, yoga and tai-chi can be helpful practices to stay in the present, away from anxieties and physical resources can be downloaded from the internet – for example, free adult mindfulness colouring sheets.
If your anxiety is affecting your daily life, you may want to consider psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or applied relaxation. These can offered in different ways, for example, using a self-help workbook, as an online course, one-to-one or in a group.
CBT helps you recognise and overcome your anxious thoughts by changing negative patterns in the way you think and behave. Although it’s sometimes called a talking therapy, CBT provides practical ways to improve your current state of mind rather than focusing on issues from your past.
It involves working with a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional in regular sessions over a period of time and can be provided by the NHS. You can self-refer for CBT. This means that, while you do need to be registered with a GP, they don’t need to refer you for treatment.
Applied relaxation involves learning how to relax your muscles in a particular way whenever you feel anxious. It needs to be taught by a trained therapist, who will meet you for regular sessions over a period of time. As with CBT, you can get applied relaxation therapy on the NHS and self-refer.
For NHS psychological therapies services, you can find the service provider closest to you using the online tool.
Or, you can pay to access psychological therapies services privately. The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) has a register of accredited therapists in the UK, and The British Psychological Society (BPS) has a directory of chartered psychologists.
If your anxiety is particularly severe, and none of the suggestions above have worked or you don’t feel they are right for you, you may want to speak to your GP about medication.
There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat anxiety. Some can only be taken for a short time, but others can be prescribed long-term. Your GP will let you know about any likely side-effects and make sure any new medication won't interfere with treatments you’re having for your brain tumour.
If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.