Anxiety is a very real health issue - so why isn’t it taken seriously?

Anxiety is a big issue - and one that needs to be tackled [Photo: Getty]

When Zayn Malik pulled out of a longstanding appearance at the Summertime Ball earlier this year, people assumed it was because he didn’t fancy performing at the same event as his ex, Little Mix’s, Perrie Edwards. But the truth was really quite different.

Taking to Twitter the ex-One Direction singer posted a heartfelt apology about the crippling anxiety that kept him off stage. “My anxiety that has haunted me… has gotten the better of me,” he wrote. “I have suffered the worst anxiety of my career.”

Anxiety. It’s a term that’s often tossed around in every day conversations, when you’re stressed, worried or concerned you’re not getting nearly enough ticked off your to-do list. But for nearly a fifth of adults in the UK, anxiety or depression can be a very real, very debilitating disorder. And according to a review published by the University of Cambridge women are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety than men.

Anxiety and depression affects nearly a fifth of British adults [Photo: Getty]

But despite anxiety being one of the most common mental health conditions, people don’t always recognise it as such. A recent survey by the mental health charity, Mind found that only half of people polled agreed that anxiety could be a mental health problem. In fact, nearly one in twenty people currently experiences anxiety on its own and one in ten has mixed anxiety and depression. Anxiety has now become level with depression as the most common reason for calls to Mind’s Infoline.

“Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK, affecting around one in twenty people each year,” explains Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind. “We all experience anxiety from time to time, especially if we’re faced with a stressful situation like sitting an exam or interviewing for a job. But if you’re fretting more frequently than you used to, drinking more than normal, finding it hard to sleep, worrying about things excessively, or regularly experiencing physical symptoms, such as breathlessness, sweating and rapid heartbeat, you could have a mental health problem such as an anxiety disorder.”

Zayn isn’t the only high profile celebrity to discuss his ongoing battle with anxiety. A few years ago, songstress Adele spoke out about her own personal mental health journey. “I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever,” she said.

“I will not do festivals. The thought of an audience that big frightens the life out of me. I don’t think the music would work either. It’s all too slow. I’d hate to book a festival and have a f****** anxiety attack and then not go on stage.”

Adele has also revealed she’s suffered from anxiety [Photo: Rex Features]

But with her series of sell-out O2 shows and upcoming Glastonbury slot, it seems the British star has found a way to cope with her anxiety and panic attacks. So much so that Zayn’s people have contacted Adele’s in the hope that she can help the young singer conquer his own demons.

“Zayn’s management are doing everything they can to help him because it’s having a major impact on his career,” a source told The Sunday Mirror.

“They’re pulling in people who can help him because he can overcome this and if he’s going to stay in music and singing he absolutely has to get it under control.”

Another high profile mental health sufferer is vlogging superstar, Zoella (Zoe Sugg). The 26-year-old YouTuber suffers from anxiety disorder, which causes her to feel anxious about wide-ranging issues. Taking to her YouTube channel Zoella bravely filmed herself mid-panic attack, in tears, visibly breathless and uncomfortable. Her aim was to raise raise awareness of the issue and to help fellow sufferers feel like they’re less alone.

And it seems to have had the desired effect as a recent survey by panic attack inhaler manufacturer bcalm revealed that 53% of panic attack sufferers felt that hearing a well-known personality talking about their condition had helped them.  

So what does anxiety look like? Though not all anxiety journeys are the same, some of the more common symptoms include feeling tense and restless, breathing rapidly and getting light headed, or having persistent negative thoughts.  

Experts say that if such symptoms aren’t addressed, they can end up having a serious impact on day to day life. Problems sleeping, lowered immune system and depression can all develop as a knock-on effect and can get to the point that it becomes difficult to hold down a job, maintain relationships or take pleasure in life.

“Issues such as self-stigmatisation or discounting anxiety as day-to-day stress can prevent people from accessing the help that they need,” explains Sophie Corlett. “If you feel that you or someone you know may be experiencing anxiety to the extent that it’s impacting day-to-day life, it’s important to speak to someone you trust, as soon as possible.”

For those sufferers who don’t have Adele on speed dial, there are some treatments that can help tackle anxiety. 

Anxiety can be debilitating for many sufferers, but there is help available [Photo: Rex Features]

According to Mind the first port of call to seek help should be your GP. They recognise that it can be a challenging conversation to have, so their new campaign ‘Find the Words’ is designed to explain why it’s so important to visit your doctor.

Once, you’ve made that initial step in making an appointment with your GP, Mind says there are a few common treatments that your GP might offer you for anxiety and panic disorders including talking treatments, exercise, arts therapy, green activities (ecotherapy), self-help resources and certain types of medication.  

The kind of treatment your GP may offer could vary depending on your diagnosis, but ideally they should offer you a talking treatment before prescribing medication (this the recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), who produce guidelines on best practice in healthcare).

For Lucy* it was talking about her issues that helped her get on top of her anxiety.

“Talking about our mental health is difficult or scary for the majority of us but I cannot recommend it enough,” she says. She describes being left physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted after opening up for the first time, but at the same time feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “It isn’t something we should have to be scared about, speech is so powerful and talking to other individuals who have experienced similar problems is the most healing and helpful tool.”

Though the majority of responses to Zayn’s anxiety announcement were largely positive, some were still confused about what having the condition constitutes and whether or not Zayn is actually a sufferer (but everyone gets nervous!/he’s performed to thousands before, why not now?/but he posted a happy tweet yesterday?)

For sufferers anxiety is painful, frustrating and embarrassing enough without the world denying its existence, that’s why the more celebrities and other high profile sufferers bring the subject to the forefront, the more we can challenge that culture of anxiety silence. Which has to be a good thing, right?

*Name has been changed

For more information on mental health and tips on how to prepare for a GP appointment visit www.mind.org.uk/findthewords

Have you ever suffered from anxiety? Tell us your experiences @YahooStyleUK

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