The Anxiety Shapeshifter [Eco-Anxiety] [Health Anxiety]

Stress and anxiety are very good at spreading from one context to another without us realising.

It’s a bit like the mythical “shapeshifter”, Harry Potter style, changing its form to fit into different situations.

Suppose we’re having a particularly difficult time at work, with emotions riding high. Heart rate might be raised, our thinking less clear.

What happens when we get home and stop thinking about work?

If we still have some stress and anxiety ‘hanging in the background’, the mind may keep looking for reasons for feeling that stress and anxiety.

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Panic & Anxiety Attacks – The Hidden Cause

Panic & anxiety attacks might seem to happen “for no apparent reason” – but hidden ‘behind the scenes’ there’s a common underlying cause.

Some people experience them more strongly than others, and they typically include symptoms like:

  • A feeling of panic or anxiety, sometimes doom or fear of death
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Lightheadedness and shortness of breath / a sense you can’t breathe enough air (caused by hyperventilation)

Panic and anxiety attacks occur due to a type of issue involving our unconscious mind1, which you could think about as an “unconscious malfunction”.

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Anxiety 101 – What actually is anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are very closely linked, in more ways than one. In fact, exactly how they relate to each other can be confusing!

To understand anxiety, first you need to understand stress and stress-related symptoms.

Stress can lead to many different symptoms, some psychological and some physical. The range of symptoms is huge and varied. Some of these symptoms occur for only a short time period; others seem to start after a prolonged period of stress and may be chronic in nature.

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Stress 101 – What actually is stress?

Even amongst scientists, the word “stress” has no single definition. Sometimes people use ‘stress’ to describe what’s going on inside us (thoughts, emotions, and physical responses) and sometimes they use it to describe the problems we face (anything from daily irritations to major life challenges2 2.

How can we explain stress when there’s no single definition?

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I don’t feel “stressed” or “anxious”… But could I have a stress or anxiety problem?

Years ago, when a cardiologist first suggested I had stress and anxiety, I felt completely misunderstood. I’d never felt ‘stressed’ or ‘anxious’ in a significant way, so it felt like an absurd suggestion.


But I later learned that everybody experiences stress differently – in fact some people don’t feel ‘stressed’ at all, while others may feel viscerally “stressed out” or “anxious”.  The same goes for physical symptoms:  Everyone’s different.

Yes, there are emotions or feelings we call “stress”, “anxiety”, and “panic”.  But those are different to the health issues of stress, anxiety and panic:  And the former don’t necessarily come together with the latter.

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About QCH: Why I trained in Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy

Full disclosure: As a QCH therapist myself, I’m obviously biased on this topic :). But I’ll go ahead and tell you why I chose this approach to therapy, and why I continue to think it’s one of the most effective approaches available.


For the last two decades Quest Institute has positioned itself at the forefront of therapy and coaching, with the development and continued growth of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (QCH).

In a nutshell, QCH is a cutting-edge, evidence-based approach that integrates many of the most effective approaches from the world of therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy and coaching.

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Altitude sickness at the beach – Psychogenic Health (Part I)

This is part one of my upcoming three-part series on psychogenic health - physical illnesses and symptoms with a psychological origin, and how to tackle them.  Part two is coming soon.

It was early 2014 and I resided in the corner of a living room in Sydney.  Me and four Thai university students called that room home, lines of fabric partitions providing our privacy.  My bed touched the wall near the patio doors, so on a couple of Summer nights I was awoken by a large cockroach crawling along my back.

I'd landed alone with a few hundred dollars to my name, but after a difficult start, I found a good job and a stable place to stay.  A challenge had been overcome, and I had reason to feel proud - even if I needed to save up a while longer before I could afford a proper room.

I was trying to keep my mind off the bouts of dizziness that struck me at random; the heart palpitations that kept me awake at night; and the insidious pains in my hands that were starting to threaten my computer-based work.

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