Anxiety ranked as the world’s leading mental health challenge, sparking a call for urgent expansion of treatment and support by the World Health Organization.

  • Prevalence: Anxiety disorders rank as the most prevalent mental health conditions globally, impacting around 301 million individuals in 2019.

  • Gender: Anxiety disorders tend to affect more women than men, emphasising the need for gender-specific awareness and support.

  • Early Onset: Anxiety symptoms often manifest during childhood or adolescence, underscoring the importance of early intervention and support for young individuals.
  • Effective Treatments: Fortunately, highly successful treatments are available for anxiety disorders, offering hope and relief to those struggling with these conditions, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness-based approaches.
  • Treatment Gap: Despite the availability of effective therapies, it’s noteworthy that approximately one in four individuals dealing with anxiety disorders currently receive treatment for their condition. Increased awareness and accessibility to mental health resources can help bridge this gap and improve overall mental well-being.
  • COVID-19: In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“I suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks”

Blindboy Boatclub discusses panic and attending CBT

We’ve all experienced moments of anxiety, but the struggle is different for those grappling with anxiety disorders. It involves intense and excessive fear and worry, often accompanied by physical tension and cognitive and behavioural symptoms. Anxiety disorders can disrupt daily life, affecting relationships, social activities, and professional or academic responsibilities.

Statistics paint a revealing picture: approximately 4% of the global population currently grapples with an anxiety disorder (1). In 2019 alone, a staggering 301 million individuals worldwide were affected by anxiety disorders, making them the most prevalent among all mental health conditions (1).

The good news is that highly effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available. However, the reality is that only around 1 in 4 individuals in need, which equates to 27.6%, receive any form of treatment. Numerous obstacles stand in the way of individuals seeking care, including a lack of awareness that anxiety disorders are:

  • Treatable health conditions.
  • Insufficient investment in mental health services.
  • There is a shortage of trained mental health professionals.
  • The enduring societal stigma associated with mental health challenges.

Highlighting the significance of boosting awareness, expanding access to mental health resources, and reducing the stigma related to anxiety disorders is crucial for ensuring that more individuals receive the necessary support and treatment to lead fulfilling lives.

Common symptoms of anxiety may include:

  1. difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  2. feelings of irritability, nervousness, helplessness, tension, or restlessness.
  3. experiencing nausea or discomfort in the abdominal area.
  4. increased heart rate or hyperventilation
  5. sweating, trembling, or shaking.
  6. struggling with sleep disturbances.
  7. a sense of impending danger, or obsessively thinking about panic.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, including:

  1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder: This is when someone worries too much about everyday things, an intolerance for uncertainty.
  2. Panic Disorder: Some people have panic attacks and fear having more of them.
  3. Social Anxiety Disorder: People with this disorder fear social situations where they might feel embarrassed or worry about being judged.
  4. Agoraphobia is when someone is scared of places or situations that might make them panic or feel trapped.
  5. Separation Anxiety Disorder: Some people worry a lot about being apart from loved ones.
  6. Specific Phobias: People with these disorders fear certain things or situations and try to avoid them.

Steps for Self-Management

To feel better and stay healthy, you can incorporate the following steps:

Structure and routine play a pivotal role in maintaining good mental health. Daily structure/routine provides stability, predictability, and a sense of control, reducing stress and anxiety. Regular schedules promote better sleep, mood regulation, and increased productivity, fostering a positive mindset and overall emotional wellbeing.

A balanced diet can help stabilise mood, reduce stress, and improve cognitive function. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins have been linked to better mental health outcomes. A balanced diet fosters better gut health, influencing the “gut-brain axis,” further impacting mood and mental clarity.

Regular physical exercise, like walking and movement, is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Walking and movement also promote relaxation, boost self-esteem, and enhance cognitive function, contributing to a healthier mind.

Quality sleep significantly impacts mood and overall wellbeing. During sleep, the brain processes emotions, consolidates memories, and restores the body. Sufficient rest improves mood regulation, reduces irritability, and enhances emotional resilience. Prioritising good sleep habits is vital for nurturing a positive outlook and promoting overall mental and emotional health.

Socialising is essential for mood and well-being as humans are inherently social beings. Meaningful interactions stimulate the “social brain,” releasing neurotransmitters like oxytocin that promote positive emotions and reduce stress. Conversation fosters connection, boosts self-esteem, and provides emotional support, contributing to improved mental and social health.

Setting goals for achievement and mastery can positively impact mood and overall well-being. Pursuing meaningful objectives provides a sense of purpose, boosts self-esteem, and fosters personal growth. Achieving these goals promotes satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness, contributing to a healthier and more balanced mental and emotional state.

Positive Experience
Pleasant events or positive experiences enhance mood and well-being. Savouring these moments allows individuals to fully immerse themselves in joy, fostering positive emotions and reducing stress. Cultivating an appreciation for the positive aspects of life contributes to a more resilient and content mental state.

Approach Mindset
Activating the approach system or adopting a growth mindset involves embracing challenges, seeking learning opportunities, and cultivating resilience. This shift breaks the automaticity of avoidance and isolation, fostering personal growth, and enhancing overall well-being.

Engaging in creativity, whether through creative writing, music, movement, singing, or learning something new, positively impacts mood and mental health. These activities promote self-expression, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive abilities. Creativity also offers an outlet for emotions, fostering a sense of accomplishment and joy contributing to overall well-being.

Practicing gratitude, generosity, play, relaxation, and mindfulness are essential for overall well-being. Gratitude and generosity cultivate positive emotions, play fosters creativity and joy, relaxation reduces stress, and mindfulness enhances self-awareness and inner peace, collectively contributing to a happier and healthier life. Recommended practices include the 3-minute breathing space, yoga, and breathing meditation.

Avoid or cut down on alcohol and recreational or street drugs, as they can exacerbate anxiety.

Seeking Therapy

Several psychotherapy approaches can be effective in treating anxiety disorders. These approaches are often used alone or in combination with other therapies or medications, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common psychotherapy approaches for anxiety which are available at The Mindfulness Clinic:

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most widely used and evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders. It helps individuals identify and challenge irrational or negative thought patterns and replace them with more realistic and constructive ones. CBT also includes exposure therapy, where individuals gradually confront their fears to reduce anxiety.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) teach individuals to cultivate mindfulness and awareness. These practices can help reduce anxiety by promoting acceptance of thoughts and emotions without judgment.

Psychodynamic Therapy: This approach explores the unconscious processes and early life experiences contributing to anxiety. It aims to help individuals gain insight into the root causes of their anxiety and develop healthier ways of coping.

Polyvagal therapy, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, treats anxiety by addressing the autonomic nervous system’s role in emotional well-being. It focuses on the interplay between the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” responses. Through techniques like deep breathing, safety cues, and body-centred and grounding exercises, it helps individuals regulate their nervous system, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall mental well-being, offering a holistic approach to treatment.

Self-Havening is a therapeutic technique aimed at alleviating anxiety and stress. It involves the client using gentle touch (self-soothing) on specific areas of their body while simultaneously engaging in positive self-affirmations and visualization.This method is believed to help individuals access their innate soothing mechanisms, promoting emotional regulation and reducing anxiety levels.


  1. GBD Results Tool. In: Global Health Data Exchange [website]. Seattle: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; 2019 (, accessed 5 September 2023).
  2. Alonso J, Liu Z, Evans-Lacko S, et al. Treatment gap for anxiety disorders is global: results of the World Mental Health Surveys in 21 countries. Depress Anxiety. 2018;35(3):195–208. doi:10.1002/da.22711.