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Author Tim Clare reveals how writing helped him overcome his anxiety and panic attacks

The book Coward is out now to buy

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, but for someone who suffers an immense amount, it can lead to something more detrimental. Some people will experience panic attacks and an overwhelming amount of feeling tense, nervous and restless.

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Author Tim Clare, who has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for over a decade, has explored all the possible treatments for anxiety, from SSRIs to hypnosis, running to extreme diets - something which he has detailed in his brand new book, Coward Why We Get Anxious & What We Can Do About It.

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At their worst, Tim's attacks would see him curled up on the floor, screaming out to his wife for help. When they became more than he and his family could manage, Tim made a promise to himself - he would try everything he could to get better, every method and medicine.

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"Everybody knew I was anxious, that I suffered from anxiety for years," he explained to HELLO! in our Mental Health Digital Issue guest-edited by Scarlett Moffatt. "I was continually being sent little cut-out newspaper articles about anxiety in the post from my grandma – so I always knew it was a subject that ruled my life.

"I had panic attacks every week and sometimes multiple times a day for several days. I knew that it was something that I didn't write about in my fiction that made my novels. And yet it was the most dominating issue of my life."

In Coward, Tim interviews experts and becomes a guinea pig, testing their methods on himself. At the end of a year of many ups and downs, the dad-of-one discovered what helps him (and what doesn't), and what might help others.

"I've spoken to some psychologists and neuroscientists about creativity and how we can write to engage with difficult things in our past like traumas and things like that," he shared. "How writing can be good for the brain and the changes it has on the brain."

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Tim is an award-winning writer, poet and creative-writing podcaster

Tim, who shares five-year-old Suki with his wife, also looked to discover whether he could pass on his anxiety to his daughter. "My daughter Suki, who was coming up to three at the time, came with me to the University of East Anglia where they were looking at children's development, their cognitive development," he said.

But it was at the university when Tim was able to see how his daughter's brain actually worked with the use of an infrared scanner.

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Asked whether he was worried she'll inherit these feelings of anxiousness, Tim replied: "The answer is yes. I think before I understood a bit clearer about things, like genetic vulnerabilities. I was like, 'Do I just have the anxiety gene that may get passed down?' Having spoken to the geneticist Adam Rutherford, I read quite a lot of genetics papers to understand. It's not that simple and there is no anxiety gene.

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"There is no one thing that makes you more vulnerable to anxiety. I don't want my daughter to feel the kind of pathological anxiety that I felt."

He added: "What I do know is when I now encounter people including anxious children. I know exactly how they're feeling. I feel very comfortable talking with children about anxiety, and I don't tell them, 'Don't feel anxious, it's not okay to feel anxious.' I say, 'How are you feeling? I felt like that as well too, I used to get really anxious and again, you know, it's alright to be scared.'"

Most of all, Tim comes to rethink anxiety and encourages all of us to do the same. Writing about his own personal experiences of anxiety and panic attacks in his book, Coward, Tim offers practical advice on how to cope with anxiety.

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