Jenny Ryan health: Chaser recalls her gruelling anxiety battle – ‘Is my brain broken?’

Babylon Health: Tips for coping with anxiety and mental health

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Jenny Ryan is one of the more outgoing Chasers on ITV’s The Chase. Not content with defeating avid quizzing contestants, the general knowledge pro competed in the ITV competition series, The X Factor: Celebrity in 2019. Jenny, nicknamed the “The Vixen” on The Chase, has also not always had the confidence she possesses today.

Jenny was racked with anxiety during her childhood, which affected her schooling.

Speaking to, the Chaser described that fraught period.

She said: “I’d always been the genius of the family. Teachers said I’d definitely go to a top university and could do anything, even be Prime Minister.

“Suddenly, things got harder. I used to enjoy doing homework but stopped trying and felt drained. Anxiety started to build and I didn’t understand what was going on.”

Jenny added: “Back home I sat on my parents’ sofa and felt a lack of reality. My brain couldn’t process. I just flipped out. I thought – ‘what’s going on? Is my brain broken?’”

The quiz champ eventually consulted her doctor who attributed her descent to an anxiety attack.

How do I know if I have anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural human response when people feel that they are under threat.

It can be experienced through thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

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However, anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to, explains UK mental health charity Mind.

For example, it may be a problem if:

  • Your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • Your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • You avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • Your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  • You regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  • You find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

“If your symptoms fit a particular set of medical criteria then you might be diagnosed with a particular anxiety disorder,” explains Mind.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder in adults.

“GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event,” explains the NHS.

How to treat anxiety disorders

GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms.

There are various evidence-based treatments that have been found to help with anxiety and panic disorder.

According to Mind, if self-help resources aren’t likely to help with the anxiety problems you’re experiencing, or you’ve already tried them and they haven’t helped, your doctor should offer you a talking treatment.

There are two types of talking treatment recommended for anxiety and panic:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.
  • Applied relaxation therapy – this involves learning how to relax your muscles in situations where you normally experience anxiety.

“Your doctor might offer to prescribe you medication to help manage your symptoms,” adds Mind.

“Some people find it helpful to try talking therapies and medication at the same time, but medication shouldn’t be the only thing you’re offered.”

Medications offered include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Pregabalin
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepine tranquillisers.

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