Managing Worry with a Neurological Condition
The information contained here is not intended to replace medical advice, and if you feel like your worry/anxiety is obstructing your rehabilitation or impacting upon your day-to-day life, you should speak to a medical professional.
Information on this topic
Worry and anxiety are an emotional response to anything that makes us feel threatened in our daily lives. Common unpleasant symptoms include a fast beating heart, sweating, shaking, and fast breathing. It can also include negative thoughts, and unhelpful thought patterns.
It has been found that when someone has a neurological condition, they are more likely to experience symptoms of worry and anxiety, often in relation to concern about the neurological symptoms themselves.
But there is lots of different reasons for an increase in worry/anxiety with a neurological condition, the 3 main types are:
- Biological Reasons e.g. damage to brain areas involved in fear, neurochemical imbalances
- Social Reasons e.g. fewer people to turn to for support, e.g. because you are in hospital, and having to try new activities that are outside one’s comfort zone
- Psychological Reasons e.g. feeling vulnerable, confused, disorientated
There are many ways that we can attempt to manage worry and anxiety.
If you find that you experience some of the following common symptoms, or something similar, then our self-help tips and activity below may help you manage in day-to-day life.
- Negative thoughts
- Thoughts about symptoms such as: What are my symptoms due to? Why doesn't anyone seem to believe me? Am I going mad? Will I become disabled in the future?
- Feeling wound-up, tense, or restless
- Concentration problems
- A sense of dread
Physical Symptoms =
- Muscle Tension
- Sleep difficulties
- Panic Attacks
- A pounding or racing heart (palpitations)
- Tightness of the chest or feeling breathless
- Indigestion, nausea and stomach cramps
We have put together a few top tips for managing worry/anxiety:
- It can be helpful to identify/ challenge negative thoughts - see the self-help activity below. Keeping a diary can be part of this or done separately.
- Grounding exercises e.g. identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste
- Mindfulness exercises - becoming aware of the ‘here and now’. Click here for some.
- Try to build your self- confidence e.g. by doing things you are good at, or trying something new.
Puzzles, quizzes, crosswords
Watching tv/ film or listen to music
Go for a walk
Speak to a friend
Self Help Activities
Thought Identification/ Challenge Document
Use this to keep a record of when you feel worried, what thoughts you have, and what happened before/ after that might have been a trigger. You might be able to identify specific patterns and triggers.
These thoughts are also not always correct, and there may be more than one way to think about something. Ask yourself the following questions about your thought, and try to come up a more rational thought:
- Is it as likely to happen as you think?
- Has it gone well/ been OK in the past? What is the worst case scenario?
- If a friend read your negative thoughts, would they agree with you? If not, what would they say?
Fear Hierarchy/ Graded Exposure
If you are worried about a particular event/ stimuli e.g. a needle, or going somewhere, slowly exposing yourself to this document might be helpful.
Rank your fears from least to most e.g. least = seeing picture of needle, most = having an injection. Use the fear hierarchy document to help you do this – there is an example of a hierarchy for a dog phobia also.
Then you can work your way up from the least to the most feared stage, only moving on to the next stage when you are fully relaxed with the current stage.