Nadiya Hussain praised for on-screen anxiety treatment

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Nadiya Hussain

Viewers have praised Nadiya Hussain for opening up about her lifelong struggle with “extreme anxiety”, and her journey to get help, in a BBC One documentary.

The 2015 Great British Bake Off winner allowed cameras to follow her as she sought a diagnosis and treatment.

She was seen having therapy, speaking about how her anxiety and panic attacks stemmed from childhood bullying and serious health problems in her family.

It was an “incredibly open, honest and moving account”, one viewer wrote.

In Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, which was shown on Wednesday, she spoke about her regular panic attacks and voices in her head telling her she’s not good enough.

Anxiety was “often an overwhelming feeling I can’t control” and “a monster” that stops her functioning, she said.

“Having anxiety is probably one of the most lonely, most isolating things to have because you are your own worst enemy and you live inside your head,” she said.

During her cognitive behavioural therapy, she traced her problems back to when her brother and sisters both had life-threatening illnesses as young children, and the severe bullying she suffered at primary school.

Racist bullies would pull her hair out, slam her fingers in doors until all her fingernails fell out, and flush her head down the toilet.

“I still have that memory of the water going up my nose and feeling like if they don’t pull me up now I am going to drown with my head in this toilet,” she said.

After that, she hid under a sink and had her first panic attack.

“If I could erase my memory, then I would take that one memory out of my head, because that memory is always there,” she said.

The Daily Telegraph’s TV critic Isabel Mohan wrote: “By opening up about the severity of her condition and tackling it head-on, Hussein should now become an inspiration to her fellow anxiety sufferers.”

The programme also followed Hussain speaking to other sufferers, and doing something that would have been unthinkable before – taking an unplanned train trip to London.

Mohan wrote: “It feels bizarre that this familiar, friendly face, regarded as Bake Off’s biggest success story and a huge role model for many British Muslims, would ever be so scared of a simple trip, and is an important reminder that we shouldn’t assume that our friends and family are doing OK just because they’re all smiles when we see them.”

Writing in The Huffington Post, Rachel Moss said: “In a world where nearly nine in 10 people with mental health problems say stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives, honesty like Nadiya’s feels like something we all need.”

Nadiya added during the programme: “I’m also aware I’m incredibly lucky because there are lots of sufferers who are undiagnosed or who are not getting professional treatment.”

The documentary was part of a string of special programmes made for Mental Health Awareness Week.

In David Harewood: Psychosis and Me, on BBC Two at 21:00 on Thursday, the Homeland actor will speak about being sectioned after a psychotic breakdown at the age of 23.

“As Nadiya said last night, we need to talk about these things,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Alastair Campbell: Depression and Me, fronted by the former Labour spin doctor, will be on BBC Two on Tuesday 21 May.

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