How to recognise anxiety and cope with it

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The Stylist web team

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK and is more than twice as likely to affect women as men. readers are no exception. When we featured a photo series on anxiety by Katie Crawford last year, more than 9,000 readers took part in our poll to tell us about their experiences, with 64% of you telling us that you tackle feelings of anxiety on a daily basis. 

“Anxiety disorders affect a significant proportion of the population,” Dr Michael Rutherford, a psychiatrist at London’s Springfield Hospital told us. “But many suffer in silence.”

With National Mental Health Awareness Week underway, here’s a reminder of why anxiety shouldn’t be minimised, dismissed or ignored...

1. ‘I’ve lived with this nagging, low-level panic all my life’ - Sarah Fletcher tells Stylist about the paralysing effects of anxiety and how she conquered it


"Every night is the same: I lie awake staring into the darkness as my thoughts race and I struggle to calm my short shallow breaths. So ingrained is this nightly routine, that even if nothing immediately bothers me, I find my mind scrabbling around for something to worry about."

Writer Sarah Fletcher opens up about outwardly laughing off symptoms of her anxiety to family and friends, while inwardly living with a "nagging, low-level panic."

She explores the battle between mind and body, speaks to experts about the most helpful ways to begin tackling anxiety and tries out each one herself. 

Read Sarah's story

2. Overcoming the dreaded curse of night-time anxiety


"At first glance, I maintain a pretty good facade of looking like a woman who has her sh*t together. But beneath my illuminating concealer lies an anxious husk of a human who is often wide awake panicking between 3am and 5am, a frustration I’ve lived with on and off for most of my adult life."

Kate Faithfull-Williams, a long-term sufferer of night-time stress, trials a variety of methods to alleviate her worrying - with surprising results.

Read more

3. Pictures that will explain your anxiety better than words


“These photos sum up anxiety perfectly! I have suffered from anxiety quite a lot in my life - even verging on a nervous breakdown a couple of times when things (usually career related) have got too much and I expect far too much from myself. The dread of thinking something catastrophic is going to happen is one I can totally relate to.”  - reader

Many people have used art to illustrate how anxiety feels for them, and this extraordinary photo series from a life-long sufferer of the disorder explores the crippling effect of anxiety in a more powerful way than words.

See the pictures

4. Therapy doesn't have to be daunting - here's why


“It’s not just helpful to know what kinds of therapy work for particular issues, but also it helps you to work out if the therapy you’re opting for is a good fit with your personality.” - Professor Stephen Joseph, author of Theories Of Counselling And Psychotherapy: An Introduction To The Different Approaches

You've decided to give therapy a chance - but where do you begin?

A Stylist census of 10,000 readers in 2012 found that a third were in therapy, while a further 44% said they would consider it. We spoke to the experts about a range of options - from psychoanalysis to art therapy - why they may or may not be right for you, and how to get started.

Find out more

5. Have you cried this week? You’re not alone

woman crying

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Anxiety reduces one in five people to tears every week, mental health charity Mind found, with women aged 18-34 breaking down most often.

“Although it might seem tempting to put on a brave face, it really is OK to cry,” Mind's chief executive, Paul Farmer says. “It’s time for us all to stop holding back the tears and reach out for support. Responding to symptoms early is vital so that they don’t become more serious and complicated.”

Read more

6. There's an app for that. Yes, even that


An unexpected and simple way some people relieve everyday anxiety comes via their phones. Therapists are increasingly asking their patients to use Songify, a music app, to make recordings of what worries them. 

Here's how the technique works

7. Enjoy some light relief


Cartoonist and illustrator Gemma Correll has created a brilliant comic book that perfectly captures the everyday anxieties we all deal with and how they affect our wellbeing.

Enjoy her hilariously relatable cartoons.

8. Stars deal with it too - here's what they have to say

Jennifer Aniston

They're rich and famous, but, they're not superhuman. Some of the world's most successful women, from Michelle Obama to Madonna, share their tips on how to alleviate stress and anxiety.

20 empowering and inspiring A-listers on how to deal with stress and anxiety

9. How to support a friend with anxiety


"Trying to support a loved one who’s experiencing a mental health problem can feel like turning up to an exam unprepared, particularly if you’ve never experienced anything similar yourself." contributor Moya Crockett speaks to women suffering from anxiety, as well as experts from the UK's leading mental health charities about how to support a friend or family member.

More: Empathise, encourage, and never take it personally: how to support a friend with an anxiety disorder

10. Simplifying the complex


“It’s easy to see someone’s gaping flesh wound and be like 'oh that probably hurts pretty bad, let’s fix that' but mental illness requires either experience, or a much more advanced sense of empathy.”

These are the wise words of illustrator Nick Seluk, whose simple cartoons show how anxiety disorders can affect people - and how those around them may respond.

Find out more about why Seluk's created his comic, The Awkward Yeti

Useful Resources

If you're suffering from anxiety or depression, you can call the Samaritans' confidential 24-hour helpline on 08457 90 90 90 or contact these organisations: