Anxiety is a common difficulty experienced at some point by us all. Anxious feelings often arise in relation to situations or experiences which provoke feelings of unease, worry or fear. Attending a job interview or having an exam for example, can quite easily bring forth feelings of anxiety. In situations such as this, anxiety is completely understandable and normal. However, for some people, it can become a debilitating and exhausting everyday experience, which can begin to control or overtake their lives.
What Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
GAD is relatively common condition in the UK, and it is estimated that somewhere in the region of 5% of the population suffer from it. Marginally more women than men are affected, and it is common in people between the ages of 35-59.
What makes generalised anxiety disorder different from normal levels of anxiety is the persistence, regularity and strength of the anxiety. GAD operates in a persistent or long-term capacity, causing its sufferers to endure often crippling and disproportionate responses to the actual worry or risk. In other words, a small event or incident can be capable of provoking huge levels of worry or fear.
Sufferers of GAD will often experience anxiety around a variety of circumstances, opposed to one thing, as those experiencing phobias might. There can be an increase in catastrophizing about everyday situations or experiences. For example, waiting for a partner to arrive home, and thinking they have been involved in an accident instead of the more likely reason, such as being stuck in traffic.
What Causes Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Whilst the specific causes of GAD are unknown, some research has shown that there can be a few factors involved. While these contributing factors may increase the chances of an individual developing GAD, it is not uncommon for an individual to develop the condition external to these factors. Below I have listed some possible factors. This list is not exhaustive and is used to illustrative purposes.
- Experiencing a long-term health condition
- Historic experiences of major stress or trauma such as domestic violence
- You can be five times more like to develop Gad if a close relative suffered from with GAD
- Over activity in the parts of the brain associated with behaviour and emotion
- A history of difficulties with alcohol or drug abuse
- An imbalance of mood regulating chemicals serotonin and adrenaline
Symptoms Of GAD
It is common for those suffering from GAD to experience both physical and psychological symptoms. These physical symptoms particularly, can cause the sufferer to experience an increased sense of worry, anguish and unease. The severity, frequency or experience of both psychological and physical symptoms of GAD will differ from person to person. For example, one person may experience a broad range of difficulties, whereas another might experience far fewer.
While other anxiety disorders may have a specific trigger, GAD is often unpredictable, making it feel difficult to know when difficult feelings will pass. GAD is a condition with far reaching impacts upon an individual’s life, which can make it difficult to manage relationships, jobs and daily life in general.
Listed below are some psychological and physical symptoms of GAD. These lists are not exhaustive and are intended as guidelines.
- A feeling of dread
- Feeling on edge
- Difficulty in managing everyday tasks such as work
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Feeling irritable
- Finding it hard to maintain relationships
- Overwhelming or racing thoughts
- Worrying or intrusive thoughts
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Dry mouth, muscle aches, shortness of breath or digestive difficulties
- Heart palpitations or tension headaches
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
How To Manage Generalised Anxiety Disorder
GAD is very difficult and exhausting, and can way heavily on the mind. It can feel as though there is little respite from the overwhelming feelings and experiences of anxiety. At its worst, GAD can seriously impact your relationships, life and well-being. However, there are several ways in which you can help to manage the symptoms and experiences of GAD.
Talk to someone you trust
Confiding in a close friend, colleague or family member about difficult or worrying experiences or diagnosis of GAD can be a meaningful and important experience, that provides comfort and support in a difficult time.
Try to shift your focus
You may find that trying to shift your focus can distract you, even if momentarily, from anxious thoughts and feelings. Look at a picture, or something which you find interesting or comforting. Really notice the details, the smells or sounds, and concentrate on them. Taking yourself away from the immediate worries and anxieties can be hugely beneficial.
Psychotherapy can offer you a confidential space to explore your thoughts, feelings and ideas, and work on ways to manage your GAD or anxiety. Psychotherapy will give you space to explore the roots of your anxieties and consider its components and triggers, and to think about the rules that can govern your GAD. Ultimately, psychotherapy can assist you to develop a more dynamic and engaged way of living, which is not entirely filled with or controlled by anxiety
Although a diagnosis of GAD can seem impossible to surpass, there are ways of managing, controlling and understanding your anxiety. Although this is of course not an easy road to go down, and will at points involve setbacks and difficulties, there is every chance that you can, with a combination of self-help and or talking therapies, overcome and manage GAD and anxiety. Helping yourself or seeking it from others takes courage, but is the first step toward a life with more balance and peace.