Generalised Anxiety Disorder
People with GAD feel anxious and worried most days, possibly all days, over a several months.
They find it hard to control their worries.
As soon they resolve one anxious feeling, another may appear about a different issue, even if there is no apparent reason for concern.
Sometimes the anxiety is not related to any particular issue.
It can be just a general sense that something isn’t right or that something bad is about to happen.
Because of its pervasiveness, GAD causes distress within with your family life and friendships, at work and school.
Symptoms of Generalised Aniety Disorder
In adults, GAD is associated with at least 3 of the following physical or psychological symptoms
- Edginess or restlessness.
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual.
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank.
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others).
- Increased muscle aches or soreness.
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).
In people with GAD, these symptoms are not related to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by the effect of a prescription medication, alcohol or recreational drugs.
These symptoms are not better explained by a different mental disorder. In children, only 1 symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD.
The impact of Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalised anxiety can significantly interfere with your life because it is long-term and chronic.
Having generalized anxiety disorder does more than just make you worry. It can:
- Cause you to withdraw from family and friends
- Affect your ability to form new relationships
- Make going to work or school difficult and stressful, and force you to take time off sick.
- Undermine your job and academic performance because you have trouble concentrating
- Impair your decision making for fear of making the wrong choice
- Sap your energy
- Make it difficult to give your time and focus to activities you would normally enjoy
- Lead you to seek relief through overeating, smoking, or using alcohol and drugs
- Cause an outpouring of stress hormones which, over time, can have serious physical consequences, including: suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, muscle tension, short-term memory loss, premature coronary artery disease and heart attack
Treatment of Generalised Anxiety Disorder
The prospects for long-term recovery are good for most people who seek appropriate professional treatment
Research shows that psychological therapies are the most effective treatment option for people with anxiety. However, if symptoms are severe, some drug treatments may be helpful.
The most common type of psychotherapy used in the treatment of anxiety is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
As its name suggests, CBT involves both ‘cognitive therapy’ and ‘behaviour therapy’. Cognitive therapy focuses on your patterns of thinking while behaviour therapy looks at associated actions.
One of the strengths of CBT is that it aims not just to help you overcome the symptoms you’re currently experiencing, but it also aims to teach new skills and strategies that you can apply to future problems.
The large majority of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder are able to reduce or eliminate their anxiety symptoms and return to normal functioning. Indeed, many people notice improvement in symptoms and functioning within a few treatment sessions.
Antidepressant medication and benzodiazepines are two drugs most prescribed to treat anxiety. Like all drugs, however, they have side effects that must be monitored closely.
When to Get Help
The point at which worry and anxiety become a problem is somewhat subjective. However, your worries are unlikely to simply go away on their own, and they may actually get worse over time.
Try to seek professional help before your anxiety becomes severe — it may be easier to treat early on.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- Is my anxiety hurting my relationships? Or my performance in school or at work?
- Am I frequently distracted by thoughts of what will go wrong?
- Do I avoid things that I might actually enjoy because of a looming feeling of dread?
- Do I constantly feel “on edge” or “amped up,” even in the absence of a clear source of worry?
- Am I frequently blowing things out of proportion, even though it does not feel this way in the moment?