Friday, 30 May 2014

Depression affects mothers most when child is four years old

Doctors urged to be aware postnatal depression can occur much later than thought, prompting calls for change in care for women.

Post natal depression
Four in ten of those suffering depression when their child was older had not previously had any problems Photo: Alamy

Mothers are more likely to suffer depression when their child is four years old than when they are babies, according to a study that has led to calls for a change in the way women are cared for.
Four in ten of those suffering depression when their child was older had not previously had any problems, the study found.
Researchers have now urged doctors to be aware that postnatal depression can first occur much later than thought.
Women who only had one baby were twice as likely to suffer postnatal depression when their child was four years old, than those who had subsequent children, it was found.
The study, which was conducted by Australian researchers, found more than 14 per cent of women suffered depression when their child was four years old.
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Fewer than one in ten at 12 months and eight per cent of women three months after giving birth.
Almost one in three first-time mothers reported suffering depressive symptoms at least once between pregnancy and four years after birth, the study found.
Postnatal depression is thought to affect up to 15 per cent of women in the UK in the first year after having a child and experts said this may now need to be revised.
Dr Hannah Woolhouse, psychologist and senior research officer, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, in Victoria, Australia and co-author of the report, said: "It is likely that current systems of maternal mental health surveillance in Australia and the UK will miss more than half the women experiencing depression in the early years of parenting.
"In particular, women who do not have subsequent children may be especially vulnerable to falling through the gaps as they will not be reconnected back into primary care services.
"There also needs to be a focus on social health and relationships as we have found a strong link between depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence."
Dr Carmine Pariante, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said nurses and doctors should ask mothers how they are coping whenever they bring their child in for routine vaccinations and other appointments and be aware that depression can hit women at any point.
He said: "Mothers should be encouraged to seek help if they need help.
"This paper is not saying depression in the first few months after the baby is born is not important, it is. But it is also the case that women are vulnerable to depression as their children get older.
"That is due to the stressors to having a child and raising a child. The sooner we can help those women and put them on the right trajectory the better."
The study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, used data from 1,507 first time mothers registered to give birth at six hospitals in Melbourne, Australia, who completed questionnaires at three, six, 12, 18 months and four years after giving birth.
The strongest predictor of depressive symptoms at four years post birth were having previously reported depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth.
Other factors associated with depressive symptoms were being young – 18 to 24 years old – stressful life events in the year before the four year follow-up, violence from a partner or a low income.
The authors of the report said the findings presented a "compelling" case for a rethink on approaches to monitoring maternal mental health where policies focus on pregnancy and the early months after birth.
Dr Woolhouse wrote in the paper: "The fact that one in three first-time mothers reported depressive symptoms on at least one occasion from early pregnancy to four years postpartum, coupled with the finding that the prevalence of depressive symptoms was highest at four years postpartum, provide a compelling case for rethinking current policy frameworks for maternal mental health surveillance.
John Thorp, BJOG editor in chief, said: "Much research has been conducted around maternal mental health during the perinatal period, however, we know very little about the prevalence of maternal depression after the first 12 months of giving birth.
"The findings of this study reinforce the need for an increased focus on maternal health, particularly in the long term, as current guidance for professionals focuses on pregnancy and the early months after birth, and the need to take into account factors linked to the mother's life."
Prof Ian Jones, Professor of Psychiatry at Cardiff University, said: "Clearly services must be aware that mothers remain at risk of depression and that risk does not go away after the postpartum period.
"For more severe episodes of mood disorder - severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis - there is no doubt at all that the period after having a baby is associated with very high risk. For example, women are 23 times more likely to be admitted to psychiatric hospital in the weeks following having a baby than at any other time in their life. This study does not change these facts. The more severe episode of depression or mood disorder the more clear it is that childbirth is an important trigger.
"The importance of postpartum depression is not due merely to it being more or less common than depression at any other time.
"Depression at this time has enormous implications for women, their babies and their wider families. Women are in contact with many health professionals through this period and its vital that depression is picked up and treated to prevent the negative outcomes we know are associated with depression at this time."

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Anxiety Attacks Cure - Self Help Anxiety Treatment


Ever feel like escaping to the office after a long day at home? Sounds counterintuitive but according to a new Penn State study, that's exactly how many of us feel.
Woman in office
Photo credit: Musketeer/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Researchers measured levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone," in people at home and on the job and were surprised to find the levels were lower at work. And not only were both men and women significantly less stressed out at work, but women also reported feeling happier at work than at home. In addition, they found that people who work full time are healthier mentally and physically. So how is it possible that the place with the plasma TV, pillow-top mattress and chocolate stash is the more stressful environment for women?

Lead researcher Sarah Damaske, Ph.D., an assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology and women’s studies, has two ideas. "Women continue to do more work in the household and have less leisure time there than men. That means that when they come home from work, they are maybe feeling more harried than men are," she explains. In addition, she found that women have to make tough decisions about workforce participation, particularly when they have children, which means that those women who remain employed are choosing to do so because they are more likely to have found a job that works for their lives.

Being a working mom myself, I can see her points, but I wonder if part of it isn't also the pressure that women feel to excel in both spheres. If we work outside the home, we feel more pressure to make sure nothing slips by when we are home. We feel like we need to make up for the time we are missing with our kids and also stay on top of the groceries, laundry and piano lessons. Plus so many people are taking work home with them these days, blurring that line between work and home. So I can understand why it might be easier to go to the office where the only thing you have to focus on is work.

Although that may not be as true for parents. The researchers found that parents experienced a less significant drop in stress at work than non-parents. As any parent can tell you, this isn't totally surprising — kids have a way of complicating things whether or not you're physically with them. (Did I tell you about the time I got called to the principal's office three times in one day? For the same kid? I might as well have set up shop in her waiting room.) Plus juggling multiple schedules just means more stress. But Damaske, also a working mom, says there's a bright side.

"Kids are a natural stress reliever, helping parents to be less stressed at home [accounting for the smaller distance between work and home stress levels]" she says. "I think about my daughter and all the joy she's brought to my life. She's almost 2 and likes to dance when she's happy — so there's lots of dancing in my house these days. How could that not lower your stress?"

Aw, now I want to go dance with my babies. What about you? Do you feel less stressed at home or at work?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Teenage girls are more prone to depression because their hormones affect blood flow to the brain

  • Scientists at University of Pennsylvania found puberty marks change in blood flow to the brain with girls seeing a higher blood flow than boys
  • Females are known to be at higher risk of depression and anxiety
  • New study found parts of the brain with highest difference in blood flow were parts associated with higher cognitive functions
  • Area affected involves emotions and regulates control of social situations
  • Researchers say it could explain why females are more prone to depression

Teenage girls could be more prone to depression and anxiety disorders because they experience greater blood flow to the brain, a new study has found.
The sex hormone oestrogen drives more blood to the heads of young women compared to men - and that could explain disparities in psychiatric disorders.
Blood flow is known to be higher in adult women than men, but a study now shows it is markedly different during adolescence when teenagers are going through puberty.
Professor Theodore Satterthwaite, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: 'In general, females have a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression and in males higher prevalence of schizophrenia.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania say greater blood flow to the brain in adolescent girls could explain why females are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety disorders
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania say greater blood flow to the brain in adolescent girls could explain why females are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety disorders

'The parts of the brain that saw the highest difference of blood flow were in parts of the brain associated with higher cognitive functions.'
He added the area affected was important as it involves 'emotions and regulates and controls social situations'.
Professor Satterthwaite and his colleagues used MRI scans to analyse the development of brain blood flow in 922 young people aged between eight and 22 to find out when such sex changes emerge.

Previous studies have shown brain blood flow falls during adolescence. But by about the age of 15 it began to decline more rapidly in males than in females, and by late puberty it rose in females but continued to decline in the males.
The results published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest the gender difference may originate during puberty, and may have implications for understanding psychiatric disorders that often manifest later.
The psychiatrists added: 'Puberty is the defining biological process of adolescent development, yet its effects on fundamental properties of brain physiology such as cerebral blood flow have never been investigated.'

The study found the areas of a girl's brain that saw the highest increase in blood flow was that which deals with emotions and controls social situations
The study found the areas of a girl's brain that saw the highest increase in blood flow was that which deals with emotions and controls social situations

It is the first time to the researchers' knowledge that such different patterns of development have been linked to the effects of puberty.
Prof Satterthwaite said: 'These results may have important implications for neuropsychiatric disorders with adolescent onset and strong gender disparities such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.'
Sex differences in brain structure are well documented and are increasingly tied to developmental effects related to puberty.
In particular, several studies have found puberty in females and rising oestrogen is related to increased grey matter in structures such as the hippocampus.
Added Prof Satterthwaite: 'The present results have potential relevance to a wide range of psychiatric disorders that often manifest following puberty and have marked sex disparities including depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.'
He added that future research could test whether increased brain blood flow in girls after puberty may be linked to the greater risk for mood and anxiety disorders, and a lower risk of schizophrenia.

Boys are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia which is linked to the male sex hormone testosterone.

Monday, 26 May 2014

OCD is linked to the 'guilty' part of brain: Breakthrough could lead to new ways of treating the disorder

  • Part of the brain linked to guilt is also highly active in people with OCD
  • Feelings of anxiety and guilt were associated with increased activity in a brain region called the preciousness

A scientific breakthrough has offered a glimpse into the vicious circle of negative thinking suffered by people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Researchers have discovered that the part of the brain associated with feelings of guilt is also highly active in people with OCD.
The findings, published by British scientists today, could lead to new ways of treating the distressing disorder.

David and Victoria BeckhamCameron Diaz
The new findings could lead to new ways of treating the distressing disorder, suffered by David Beckham (left) and Cameron Diaz (right).

A key characteristic of OCD is believing that negative thoughts will become a reality, leading to a spiralling build-up of anxiety and guilt.

Celebrities such as David Beckham, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake have spoken of their struggles with OCD, which is one of the least understood mental illnesses.

It is thought to affect around 12 people in every 1,000 in Britain.
    The new study looked at brain wave patterns in people with varying degrees of OCD symptoms.
    Scientists from Goldsmiths College in London and the University of Winchester found that feelings of anxiety and guilt were associated with increased activity in a brain region called the precuneus.
    Previous research has linked the precuneus with the processing of self-attribution, responsibility, causal reasoning, and ‘moral transgression’ guilt.
    Psychopaths, who lack a sense of guilt, have been shown to possess a small precuneus.
    The new study looked at brain wave patterns in people with varying degrees of OCD symptoms. Justin Timberlake is another sufferer
    The new study looked at brain wave patterns in people with varying degrees of OCD symptoms. Justin Timberlake is another sufferer
    Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya, from Goldsmiths College, said: ‘OCD sufferers experience more guilt and anxiety out of the kind of negative thoughts we might all have from time to time.
    ‘For example they might imagine a loved one dying in a car crash and believe that somehow it increases the chances that it will actually happen.
    ‘Once they have these thoughts they feel guilty and subsequently make attempts to suppress and neutralise them, but fail, so entering into a vicious circle."

    Many people with the condition report they cannot stop thoughts and images intruding in the mind.

    The condition is often marked by obsessive, repetitive behaviour aimed at reducing anxiety.
    Some of the least disabling forms of the disorder can add an extra hour to the day’s routine, causing distress and interfering with daily life. Some people are so affected that they cannot leave their homes.
    The study, published in the journal Neuroimage Clinical, found that precuneus activity was greater in individuals with more extreme OCD symptoms.

    Activity increased when an individual experienced greater ‘thought-action fusion’ - the belief that a negative event will become reality.
    Co-author Dr Rhiannon Jones, from the University of Winchester, said: ‘These findings could possibly prove to be a significant step towards treating OCD.
    ‘Our next step is to use brain stimulation methods to attempt to modify thought-action fusion. That will allow us to confirm the causal role of these neural findings, and hopefully find a way to reduce these harmful thought-cycles.’

    Thursday, 22 May 2014

    The kindest way to banish anxiety: Compassion Focused Therapy can help conquer crippling worries by teaching sufferers to be nice to themselves

    • Amelia Adams, 22, from Surrey has suffered from anxiety since her teens
    • Standard NHS treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, is ineffective
    • With compassion focused therapy (CFT) she is finally being helped

    Back in control: Amelia Adams has learned to overcome her panic attacks through the therapy
    Back in control: Amelia Adams has learned to overcome her panic attacks through the therapy
    Amelia Adams has suffered from anxiety since she was a teenager – a constant worry that can leave her light-headed, shaky and exhausted. 
    Now aged 22, she had her first panic attack at 17 and has spent years trying to overcome her overwhelming feelings.
    Today, after two courses of cognitive behavioural therapy – the standard NHS treatment for anxiety – proved ineffective, Amelia is finally being helped by a new type of psychological intervention: compassion focused therapy (CFT).
    Inspired by Buddhism, CFT was  conceived 30 years ago by Professor Paul Gilbert, a clinical psychologist for Derbyshire Health Care Foundation Trust. It is now being offered as a therapy option at a number of NHS hospitals.
    Sessions can be either for individuals and last about 50 minutes, or be 90-minute group discussions.
    ‘It’s similar to CBT, which works by helping patients to consider their negative thoughts and come to more realistic alternative views,’ says Prof Gilbert.
    ‘But while CBT focuses on changing behaviour in a neutral, practical way – such as using timesheets to plan the day more productively –  in CFT the focus is more on being kind to yourself.’
    Sessions have three elements: encouraging patients to do activities or make changes that are kind to themselves, such as writing to a friend; helping them focus on seeing the good in other people and their own lives rather than the negative aspects; and getting the patient  to speak out loud to themselves in a kind, warm tone.
    ‘Our brains naturally focus on the negative,’ says Prof Gilbert. ‘For example, if we go shopping and in nine shops the assistants are extremely helpful but in one shop the assistant is very rude, we focus on the latter and lose sight of the positive experiences.

      ‘Deliberately training our attention to notice kindness in others can be very helpful, which CFT does.’
      Through tackling the self-criticism and replacing it with kindness, patients then judge themselves and their lives less harshly and therefore feel happier. 
      ‘By helping people feel compassion, we believe you can create  a positive physiological change in your body – just like imagining a delicious dinner will stimulate saliva and appetite,’ continues Prof Gilbert. ‘CBT is primarily focused on thinking and behaviour change but CFT looks at the emotion behind people’s thoughts.’
      Kind words: In compassion focused therapy (CFT) the focus is on being kind to yourself and encouraging positivity
      Kind words: In compassion focused therapy (CFT) the focus is on being kind to yourself and encouraging positivity
      CFT therapist Chris Irons adds: ‘It is a relatively new therapy but we are working hard to show that this approach has something important to offer.
      ‘So far there has been one successful randomised control trial of CFT which found a reduction in symptoms in patients with depression.’ Up to 30 per cent of the population suffers anxiety at any one time.  Last month a report from the  Office for National Statistics said young women are more anxious than young men, while growing numbers of middle-aged women  are suffering chronic anxiety – females aged over 60 are the most likely group to need hospital treatment for the condition.
      ‘My anxiety started on a night  out with friends when we were on holiday in Greece,’ says Amelia, a personal assistant from Surrey.
      ‘I felt suddenly overwhelmed by panic and I ended up walking back to our apartment alone and then  was up all night in absolute bits trying to calm myself down.
      ‘I ended up getting in the shower every hour to cool down and I had no one to speak to, which made it ten times worse.
      ‘It was so terrifying I flew home early from the holiday, and afterwards I was always really nervous that I’d have another panic attack somewhere far from home with nobody there to comfort me.’
      Following that trip, Amelia’s attacks became regular, happening once or twice a month. They lasted about ten minutes each time and left her upset and exhausted. Her GP referred her for two courses of CBT, but the anxiety persisted.
      ‘It sounds silly, but I couldn’t stop worrying about my cat during the day – thoughts about her getting run over. Whatever the trigger, I feel light-headed and shaky, my stomach churns and for a moment it’s a bit like I’m having a panic attack. It’s really upsetting.’
      Amelia heard about CFT through her volunteer work at a mental health charity and, hoping to eliminate her anxiety, she booked a course of six sessions with a private therapist.
      Amelia says: ‘CBT had helped with my generalised anxiety but I preferred CFT because it involved more talking and delving into things like my childhood. I’m usually quite hard on myself so it’s taught me to be kinder, which has really helped.
      ‘Now when I’m on my own and start to feel panic, I am more gentle on myself, so instead of panicking  I sort of talk myself round with comfort. I now know that the anxiety I feel is not my fault. For the first time in years I have found a way to calm down rather than wind myself up still further.’

      Tuesday, 20 May 2014

      Why we should treat depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction together

      It may not seem likely because it's not widely discussed, but a majority of people will be affected by symptoms of depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. This fact is at odds with the shame and discomfort surrounding these symptoms in our society.

      Sexual dysfunction covers issues such as a lack of sexual desire, an inability to become aroused or achieve orgasm, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. These problems are often not picked up by doctors, and people hesitate to raise the issues themselves, maybe because they feel embarrassed.
      While depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction can each have a profound effect on quality of life, their impact is much worse when the symptoms co-occur.
      In these combined cases, symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer, and when not dealt with together, treatments tend to be less effective. Indeed, people using ineffective approaches end up having worse long-term outcomes, tend to drop out of treatment, and are less likely to return.

      Fundamental connectedness

      We know depression, anxiety and sexual problems are related, but there's very little research on how or why. Some studies show the disorders tend to appear at the same time, or that sexual dysfunction develops as a symptom of depression and anxiety.
      Others suggest sexual dysfunction creates a vulnerability to anxiety and depression. But when we look at the body of research as a whole, the relationships appear to go deeper than this.
      We know depression, anxiety and sexual problems co-occur at very high rates, and that they share multiple cognitive and emotional characteristics. We also know they can all be treated effectively using mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy.
      These commonalities suggest they might all be part of a
      family of disorders called "internalising disorders"; one isn't causing another but they all share an underlying vulnerability. Preliminary research has supported this idea.

      Lack of awareness

      Given this close relationships between the disorders, and the negative impact of not treating them together, it's concerning that they're consistently treated separately. And that the manuals used by mental health professionals and clinicians to diagnose disorders (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases) don't recognise the relationships between them.
      Indeed, the separation in the way we diagnose and treat these disorders is likely contributing to the low recognition rates of sexual problems in primary care.
      Studies have shown that most people with sexual problems consider it appropriate to discuss their symptoms with their doctor, but very few actively seek out help. People tend to expect their doctor to ask, and will not bring it up themselves.
      Only 6 per cent of participants in a study of Australian adults aged between 40 and 80 had been asked about their sexual function during a routine medical exam in the last three years. And those who were asked were more likely to seek help and enter treatment.
      Clearly, doctors should be screening for sexual problems, as people aren't actively seeking the help they require.
      Moving forward together

      If assessment of sexual problems were part of the initial evaluation of depression and anxiety, and vice versa, the low recognition rates of sexual dysfunction could be improved, and all symptoms could be treated concurrently. This would improve effectiveness and be better for patients.
      Effective new treatment programs that target the common elements of multiple disorders have already been developed for the shared aspects of depression and anxiety disorders. The same types of programs could be developed using mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy to treat sexual dysfunction, along with depression and anxiety.
      Taken together, what research we have suggests this would improve the quality of life of people suffering from combinations of these disorders.

      At the very least, doctors should be aware of the co-occurrence of the symptoms of these disorders, and the fact that if a person is experiencing depression or anxiety, that should act as a red flag to screen for sexual dysfunction.

      Monday, 19 May 2014

      Can the scent of your mum's perfume reduce stress?

      Be it money troubles, work pressures or stress at home we all feel anxious at some time or another.
      However according to new research as many as one in five women feel anxious most or all of the time.
      The Mental Health Foundation’s Living With Anxiety report revealed 22 per cent of women experience symptoms of anxiety all of the time, a number that has almost doubled during the past five years.

      Despite this rising figure a fifth said they hadn't taken any action to combat it. Here our experts explain the surprising ways you can overcome stress and worry once and for all.

      When we discover a smell we truly love it will have large numbers of ingredients within it, all which have positive, feel-good associations

      Roja Dove, perfume expert


      Scents can alter how we feel so surrounding yourself with a familiar smell can help to beat anxiety.

      “Scent stimulates synapses in the brain which trigger the release of the hormones that govern every bodily function or action,” says perfume expert Roja Dove (
      “When we discover a smell we truly love it will have large numbers of ingredients within it, all which have positive, feel-good associations,” explains Roja.

      “The scent develops positive associations, relieving us from anxiety and helping us stay calm.”

      Roja adds that a spritz of your mum’s perfume or the smell of freshly cut grass could remind you of your childhood and help you to feel less anxious.

      Tuesday, 13 May 2014

      One in five women say they are anxious most of the time

      • 22 per cent admit being preoccupied with everyday worries, poll says
      • In 2009 just 12 per cent of women said they felt frightened or anxious
      • Survey was carried out by the Mental Health Foundation charity
      • Nearly half of all people say they get more anxious than they used to
      More than one in five women say they suffer from anxiety most or all of the time – almost double the number five years ago.

      Some 22 per cent admit being preoccupied with everyday worries such as money and the welfare of loved ones.
      The figure has soared since 2009, when just 12 per cent of women said they felt frightened or anxious, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation reveals.

      More than one in five women say they suffer from anxiety most or all of the time - almost double the number five years ago
      More than one in five women say they suffer from anxiety most or all of the time - almost double the number five years ago

      The charity’s Living With Anxiety report highlights a rise in sufferers across both sexes, with nearly half of people saying they get more anxious than they used to.

      Almost one in five (19 per cent) of  the 2,300 people polled by YouGov said they feel anxious a lot or all the time,  citing money, finance and debt as their  top concerns.

      But the most startling finding is among the 1,200 women taking part in the poll.

      Some 22 per cent said they felt anxious nearly all (5 per cent) or a lot (17 per cent) of the time, compared with 15 per cent of men. And 52 per cent of women said they get more frightened or anxious than they used to, compared with 43 per cent five years ago.
        Money worries were cited as the main causes of anxiety for 48 per cent of women, with the welfare of loved ones and children coming second for 44 per cent.

        In 2009, finance (55 per cent) and the death of loved ones (55 per cent) were equally cited as the main trigger factors. Around a quarter of women say they would be embarrassed to tell anyone they felt anxious. The charity is now launching a major campaign – coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week – to raise understanding of anxiety and its potential effect on mental and emotional wellbeing.


        Tracey Crouch said the stress-relief sessions, which are based on Buddhist meditation techniques, helped her through a 'low period' in her life
        Tracey Crouch said the stress-relief sessions, which are based on Buddhist meditation techniques, helped her through a 'low period' in her life
        A Tory MP has described how courses in ‘mindfulness’ helped cure her anxiety. 
        Tracey Crouch said the stress-relief sessions, which are based on Buddhist meditation techniques, helped her through a ‘low period’ in her life. 
        The member for Chatham and Aylesford says more than 70 MPs and peers have now signed up to take part in the fashionable courses over the coming weeks.
        And she wants GPs to consider prescribing the therapy rather than handing out so many anti-depressants. 
        Mindfulness could also be used in schools to help children concentrate and even help soldiers overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.
        Speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Miss Crouch, 38, said her family doctor suggested she went on a course last year instead of relying on medication.
        She added: ‘Last year 53million  prescriptions for antidepressants were written and I think we need to look at alternative ways of coping with anxiety and stress.’ 
        She said the stigma around mental health meant it was still hard to admit needing help.
        However, the NHS is now sending more patients on mindfulness courses and an all-party parliamentary group will be launched this month to look at how the government can make use of it.
        Mindfulness, pioneered in the US in the 1970s, encourages practitioners to slow down and ‘inhabit the moment’ rather than worrying about  the past or the future. 
        Hollywood stars Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn are said to be fans of the technique, which uses breathing exercises and stretching as well as meditation.

        Although anxiety is a natural emotion, it can lead to disorders such as panic, phobias and obsessive behaviours, says the report.

        Many find solace in potentially harmful coping strategies, with a quarter comfort eating and nearly one in five ‘hiding away from the world’. More than a quarter think anxiety is a sign of not being able to cope and 29 per cent say they would be embarrassed to admit to it.

        As a result, only 7 per cent overall go to a GP about anxiety – although almost a third of women say they would do so.
        More than half (57 per cent) of people wish they could be less anxious – up from 17 per cent five years ago.
        Jenny Edwards, of the Mental Health Foundation, described the findings as ‘stark’. She said: ‘Women often are the ones who juggle the family finances and try to make ends meet in hard times. We know women often put themselves last when they have to cut back on life’s little luxuries, or even essentials.’

        Women also tend to shoulder most of the burden for caring, which can add to daily worries, she said. TV presenter Anna Williamson, 32, has suffered from generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder for the past decade but has urged sufferers to seek out ‘talking therapies’. She said: ‘I know only too well the feelings of dread, the severe panic attacks and the irrational thinking that go hand in hand with anxiety.’ NHS figures recently revealed that a third of all hospital admissions for anxiety are women over 60.

        Last year a total of 8,720 patients were treated in hospital for anxiety – 2,440 of whom were women over the age of 60. Other figures show that women make up nearly two thirds of patients seeking treatment for depression – with a 7.5 per cent rise in prescriptions for medication in a year.