Stella O'Malley, a psychotherapist with new book Fragile: Why we feel more anxious, stressed and overwhelmed than ever, and what we can do about it, states that we are at an anxiety "fever pitch". 

Speaking on The Ray D'Arcy Show, she dove into how between technology and a culture of stress and information excess we are speeding our bodies up and causing severe anxiety. 

Anxiety is difficult to explain, as it can be different for each person, but Stella explains it as "it's an overestimation of the danger and an underestimation of your ability to cope".

"We do underestimate our ability, when the worst thing happens we cope in extraordinary ways. We have such inner depth when we actually need to have. You can ruin quite happy lives by worrying needlessly." 

Anxiety is on the rise across the world

Complaints of anxiety are on the rise, she says. "Ten years ago I would have clients and they would come in with depression or addiction. They might mention anxiety. Every single client these days has anxiety, or mentions anxiety or talks about their anxiety. It's noticeably surged and everybody is talking about it."

While she says that talking about feelings is always good, "I don't think we're talking about it in the right way, because we're making each other anxious". 

When it comes to younger people struggling with anxiety, Stella believes that the message about talking about their feelings has become particularly warped. 

"We used to put everything under the carpet", she says, "and now suddenly we've brought everything into the open. If it was getting us better, I would be all for it. I think it's making us more emotional and I think we need to be wary."

"We can't live in that world where it's all about our feelings."

While this seems to go against the typical line for addressing mental health, Stella is sure to insist that she is fully in favour of reaching out and talking about issues or struggles, provided you're doing it to the right person. 

"If you talk to the wrong person when you're feeling distressed, it can be the most isolating, harrowing experience. Talk to somebody who gets you, talk to somebody who's a good listener. Don't just talk to anyone." 

As well as this, Stella cautions against the move towards anticipating anxiety or offence, notably through trigger warnings, which she feels can lead to greater feelings of anxiety. 

Citing a study carried out in Harvard where two groups were given two books - Crime and Punishment and Of Mice and Men, one group with trigger warnings and one without - she says that the group who were given the trigger warnings reported feeling more anxious.  

"Preparing yourself for danger, preparing yourself that you will get offended, is actually very bad for you", she says. "You'd be better off, psychologically, if society was given this idea of 'you will be given knocks, every one of us is going to get knocks, and you'll probably be able to cope, and certainly there's support out there if you can't cope.'"

Phone notifications were designed by psychologists to keep users online for longer

When it comes to teenagers, she says "I think they've been brought up to believe 'watch out, if something bad happens to you, it's going to be very awful and you mightn't be able to cope.'"

This speaks to the heightened awareness around anxiety, how it seems to b spreading among the public and reaching epidemic-levels. 

"Even people like myself, who wouldn't be naturally anxious, have become anxious because we're going too fast. 

"We're asking too much of ourselves, there's too much expectation. You could nearly do an analogy with children and they have too many activities and they become narky and stressed and irritable. We are doing that, as adults."

The affect of this, Stella believes, is that our body systems are speeding up, trying to keep apace with our minds and busy schedules. "I think if the average person moved from 1989 to 2019 they'd have a heart attack at the pace." 

"And even in the last ten years, city walking has sped up by 10%. We're doing everything faster. And we all know the tech is just at us. Just pings coming at us, pulling at us like babies."

Much of the problem comes from technology, which she calls a "poisoned chalice", and the constant pull from social media, an inability to be off the clock and the urge to drop in and out of our Twitter and Facebook feeds. The impulse to check in with social media at any free moment means we're constantly distracted. 

"You should look at going online [as though] you're virtually going to a place and you get your sea legs. This mindlessly flicking on all day is really bad for our nervous systems. Have a cup of coffee, go on Twitter and then leave it, as opposed to in-out-in-out. It's the in-out distraction."

Crucially, this is a trick of biological engineering Stella can understand all too well: "Don't forget that psychologists designed this to get us, 'how are we going to get these people's attention?'" 

To hear more about how society can manage and avoid anxiety, listen back to the interview above.

If you are looking for more information on mental health issues, visit A Lust for Life