Anxiety Disorders Therapy in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Therapy Service specialises in anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Our therapeutic approach primarily combines CBT and ACT for anxiety, along with elements of CFT and MBCT,. We create a secure, non-judgmental, and supportive space for you to work on your anxiety. The first step is one email away. Contact us today!

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common human emotion that all of us experience at some point in our lives. It’s that feeling of unease or worry when faced with challenging situations or uncertainties. While it can be helpful if at normal levels, as it keeps us alert and cautious, excessive or prolonged anxiety can become a psychological problem.


Anxiety is our body’s way of responding to stress through the “fight or flight” response, a survival instinct hardwired into our biology. When we perceive a threat, our body releases stress hormones like adrenaline, which prepare us to either confront the danger or escape from it.


Anxiety can manifest in various ways. It might make your heart race, your palms sweaty, or even cause trembling. You might find it difficult to concentrate or sleep, and your mind may race with worried thoughts. Sometimes, anxiety is specific to certain situations, like giving a presentation or taking an exam. Other times, it can be more generalised, creating a constant sense of unease.


Anxiety disorders are different from the occasional feelings of anxiety we all experience. They are defined by excessive and persistent worry or fear about everyday situations and can interfere with your daily life and mental health.


There are several types of anxiety disorders, as categorised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses (DSM-5), including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. These conditions often require professional help to manage effectively.

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Our therapists are qualified and registered with reputable professional associations for psychotherapy and counselling.

Types of anxiety disorders

At Edinburgh Therapy Service we specialise in therapy for various anxiety-related conditions, including the following.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is defined by an excessive and persistent worry about a wide range of concerns, often without a specific trigger. People affected may experience physical symptoms like muscle tension, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. It is also common to struggle with unrealistic and unhelpful thoughts about the future and all the possible threats that the person could face. In an attempt to get rid of the feelings of anxiety or worries, the person might ruminate or think non-stop about possible solutions to the possible threats. However, the impossibility of solving an imaginary issue often keeps the person in the loop of rumination.  This chronic worry and rumination can significantly impact daily life and functioning.


Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, involves an intense fear of social situations and a strong desire to avoid them. There is a strong fear of being judged or embarrassed in social settings, which leads to significant anxiety and avoidance behaviours. 


Unhelpful and unrealistic thought patterns also play a role in social anxiety. For instance, people might have thoughts of this type: “People will think I am stupid”, “People will notice I am anxious and think I am stupid”, or “I will make a fool of myself”. These thoughts increase anxiety, which often leads to avoiding social events, reinforcing the idea that the person is socially inadequate and feeding the circle of anxiety and avoidance. 


Panic disorder

Panic disorder is marked by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort. These attacks can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, trembling, and sometimes a sense of dying or losing control. The fear of experiencing another panic attack can produce significant anxiety and lifestyle limitations.



Agoraphobia is often associated with panic disorder. It involves a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or help may not be readily available. Common fears include crowded places, open areas, and public transportation. People with agoraphobia may avoid these situations to avoid experiencing panic attacks.


Separation anxiety disorder

This disorder is defined by excessive and age-inappropriate fear or anxiety concerning separation from attachment figures or home. It often occurs in children but can persist into adulthood. People affected may experience extreme distress when separated from loved ones and may go to great lengths to avoid separation situations.

When to seek help for anxiety?

While some levels of anxiety are normal and even beneficial, anxiety can escalate to a point where it becomes a psychological issue rather than a natural emotion. It’s important to develop self-awareness and recognize when anxiety is crossing that threshold. Look out for signals such as these:


Constant worry: When persistent and uncontrollable worry becomes regular, making it difficult to focus on daily tasks or enjoy life.


Physical symptoms: Pay attention to your body. If you experience physical symptoms like muscle tension, rapid heartbeats, sweating, or restlessness frequently, it’s worth considering professional support.


Avoidance patterns: If you begin avoiding situations, people, or places due to anxiety, such as skipping social events or procrastinating on work tasks, it’s a sign that anxiety is affecting your life.


Daily functioning: Anxiety should not hinder your ability to carry out everyday activities. If it interferes with your work, relationships, or personal life, it’s time to seek therapy.


Sleep disturbances: Consistent sleep problems like insomnia or recurring nightmares tied to anxiety may indicate the need for support.


Panic moments: Frequent panic attacks, characterised by intense fear and physical symptoms, should not be underestimated. Therapy can provide tools to manage and reduce these episodes.


Long-term anxiety: Anxiety that persists for an extended period, typically six months or more, without improvement.


Overall mental health impact: An anxiety disorder can impact your overall mental health. Pay attention to worsening symptoms or the emergence of other mental health issues like depression.


Relationship problems: Anxiety disorders can strain relationships. You might need therapy if your anxiety is causing frequent conflicts or isolating you from loved ones.

Therapy for anxiety disorders

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been, traditionally, one of the primary approaches for treating anxiety disorders. However, a new modern generation of therapies developed from CBT, known as ‘third wave’ therapies, exists nowadays and their input is promising in treating different anxiety disorders. 

These contemporary approaches to psychotherapy, which include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), represent an evolution and extension of traditional cognitive-behavioural treatment approaches. These third-wave therapies place a greater emphasis on mindfulness, acceptance, and compassion as essential components of treatment, which are ideal elements for anxiety disorders.


ACT for anxiety

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an effective approach for anxiety disorders. It advocates for collaborating with anxiety and fear, being willing to let them be, rather than trying to get rid of them. 


Several components integrate ACT, mindfulness one of them, as it plays a central role in teaching clients to be fully present and observe thoughts and emotions impartially.


Defusion,” another essential concept in ACT, shows how to disengage from anxious thoughts, recognizing their inability to command behaviour or define reality.


Furthermore, ACT focuses on clarifying personal values, setting meaningful goals, and taking committed action, even in the presence of anxiety. Instead of fixing anxiety, it shifts the focus to aligning actions with one’s values to create a purposeful life.


This approach also nurtures self-compassion, enhancing kindness and empathy toward oneself, particularly during anxious moments, countering the self-criticism often linked to anxiety.


In essence, ACT guides towards acceptance of emotions, including anxiety and fear, rather than resisting them. It is equipped with mindfulness, defusion, values clarification, and self-compassion as tools to navigate anxiety’s complexities. 

Read more about how ACT for generalised anxiety works


CBT for anxiety disorders

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are interconnected. As a result, an essential first objective is to become increasingly self-aware of one’s patterns of negative thinking and automatic unhelpful responses and behaviours to anxiety triggers. 


Once the person can recognise the patterns, a series of cognitive restructuring tools aid in identifying and challenging these distorted or irrational thoughts that activate anxiety. The goal is to reduce the impact of these unhelpful thoughts and substitute them with others that are more realistic and helpful.


CBT can also involve learning practical skills and coping strategies to manage anxiety more skillfully, such as problem-solving and stress management techniques. Exposure therapy is another important component, where clients gradually confront feared situations in a controlled and gradual manner, helping to desensitise their fear responses.

Although some components of CBT can be shared across the different anxiety disorders, remember that therapy is personalised to each disorder, person and situation. 

Our approach to anxiety counselling

At the Edinburgh Therapy Service, we provide evidence-based therapy approaches for anxiety disorders. Our therapeutic methods integrate acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy, both adapted to the different anxiety disorders. Using the latest therapies, we incorporate elements of compassion-focused therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy when they align with the person’s needs. We are passionate about these counselling modalities due to their strong foundations in evidence-based practices rooted in scientific research. 

However, we acknowledge that every client, anxiety disorder, and life circumstance is unique. As a result, we flexibly adapt our treatment plans to match each person’s requirements. 

Finally, our priority is to create a safe and non-judgmental space where you can feel heard and supported throughout your work with us.


Anxiety disorders can manifest in various ways, impacting both your mental and physical well-being. In this section, we dig into the common symptoms associated with these conditions. 


Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) 

‣ Excessive worry and anxiety about a wide range of everyday events or activities.

‣ Restlessness and difficulty concentrating.

‣ Muscle tension and physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches.

‣ Irritability.

‣ Sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.


Social anxiety disorder 

Intense fear and anxiety about social situations where individuals may be scrutinized or judged by others.

‣ Avoidance of social gatherings, public speaking, or situations that involve social interaction.

‣ Physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, or trembling in social situations.

‣ Negative self-perception and fear of embarrassing oneself in public.


Panic disorder

Sudden and intense episodes of panic or fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, and trembling.

‣ Shortness of breath or a feeling of choking.

‣ Chest pain or discomfort.

‣ Fear of losing control or going crazy.

‣ Fear of dying.

‣ Avoidance of situations that may trigger panic attacks.



Fear of situations or places where escape might be difficult or where help might not be available in case of a panic attack.

‣ Avoidance of crowded places, public transportation, or open spaces.

‣ Often, individuals with agoraphobia may stay at home to feel safe.


Separation anxiety disorder:

Excessive fear or anxiety about being separated from attachment figures (usually parents or caregivers).

‣ Worry about harm coming to oneself or loved ones when separated.

‣ Difficulty sleeping alone or being away from home.

‣ Physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches when faced with separation.


The origins of anxiety disorders, which include GAD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, separation anxiety, and social anxiety, are complex and diverse. Although they manifest uniquely in each person, these shared factors often shapes their emergence:


Genetics: There appears to be a hereditary component to anxiety disorders. Those with a family history of such conditions may have an increased susceptibility.


Brain chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.


Life events: Life events marked by stress, trauma, or significant changes can serve as triggers for, or exacerbate, anxiety disorders.


Personality traits: Certain personality attributes, such as perfectionism or excessive worrying, may heighten vulnerability to anxiety disorders.


Substance-related factors: The use or withdrawal from substances like alcohol, drugs, or caffeine can also impact or intensify anxiety symptoms.


Learned behaviour: In certain cases, people might acquire anxious behaviours by observing and emulating others in their environment, especially during their formative years.

Do you offer anxiety therapy near me?

The Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person anxiety counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom), and convenient online therapy accessible worldwide You can find our exact location here. We specialise in therapy for anxiety disorders, offering a range of evidence-based approaches including ACT, CBT, CFT, MBCT, and customized combinations tailored to your specific needs. 

Examples of research showing the efficacy of CBT and ACT for anxiety disorders

Olatunji, B. O., Cisler, J. M., & Deacon, B. J. (2010). Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: a review of meta-analytic findings. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 33(3), 557–577. 


Otte C. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy in anxiety disorders: current state of the evidence. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 13(4), 413–421. 


Pegg, S., Hill, K., Argiros, A., Olatunji, B. O., & Kujawa, A. (2022). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders in Youth: Efficacy, Moderators, and New Advances in Predicting Outcomes. Current psychiatry reports, 24(12), 853–859. 


DiMauro, J., Domingues, J., Fernandez, G., & Tolin, D. F. (2013). Long-term effectiveness of CBT for anxiety disorders in an adult outpatient clinic sample: a follow-up study. Behaviour research and therapy, 51(2), 82–86. 

Dalrymple, K. L., & Herbert, J. D. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder: A Pilot Study. Behavior Modification, 31(5), 543–568. 


Arch, J. J., Eifert, G. H., Davies, C., Vilardaga, J. C. P., Rose, R. D., & Craske, M. G. (2012). Randomized clinical trial of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) versus acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for mixed anxiety disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(5), 750–765. 


Avdagic, E., Morrissey, S., & Boschen, M. (2014). A Randomised Controlled Trial of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour Change, 31(2), 110-130. 

A-Tjak, J. G., Davis, M. L., Morina, N., Powers, M. B., Smits, J. A., & Emmelkamp, P. M. (2015). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy for clinically relevant mental and physical health problems. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 84(1), 30–36.

The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

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Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]