What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Generalised anxiety disorder (also referred to as GAD) is a long-term condition that causes sufferers to feel anxious about a variety of situations or issues, rather than one specific situation.
Those with GAD will;
• feel anxious most days
• often catastrophize situations – for example, if their partner is late home from work, someone with GAD may think that they have been in an accident, rather than any other likely scenario- they are stuck in traffic.
Other characteristics of GAD can include;
• an inability to focus
• loss of concentration and
• racing thoughts.
If you have GAD your day-to-day life will be affected by your anxieties which may
• impact your sleeping habits
• your relationships or even
• your ability to hold down a job.
Who is affected?
GAD is considered to be a relatively common condition that affects around one in every 25 people in the UK.
There are slightly more women than men diagnosed and the condition has been found to be more common in those aged 35-55.
What causes GAD?
The cause of GAD is largely unknown, although experts agree that there is likely to be a combination of factors at play.
Research has revealed the following potential contributing factors:
• over activity in the parts of the brain associated with behaviour and emotion
• an imbalance of mood-regulating brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline
• genetics – if you have a close relative with GAD, you are five times more likely to develop it
• suffering from a long-term health condition, such as arthritis or chronic fatigue
• a history of major stress or trauma can trigger the condition
• having a history of drug or alcohol misuse.
Those which have been identified above may contribute to the development of GAD, there are many people who develop the condition for no apparent reason.
Symptoms of GAD
Generalised anxiety disorder causes psychological and physical symptoms. The severity of the symptoms you experience will differ from person to person – one person may feel all of the listed symptoms, while another person may feel just one or two. Regardless, if your symptoms are causing you distress and are affecting your everyday life, you should seek professional support.
GAD often causes a change in the way you behave as well as the way you think and feel about things. This can result in the following symptoms:
• a sense of dread
• feeling ‘on edge’
• feeling restless, unable to relax
• difficulty in concentrating
• feeling irritable
• racing thoughts
• intrusive thoughts about worrying scenarios
These symptoms may make you to avoid certain situations to prevent yourself from feeling anxious. This may result in you withdrawing from your friends and family or from social contact altogether.
Your symptoms may also make work difficult for you as it can trigger stress and anxiety, causing you to take time off.
These actions can cause further worry and a low sense of self-esteem – continuing the cycle of anxiety.
Extreme anxiety can also result in a number of physical symptoms, including:
• feeling lightheaded or dizzy
• feeling lethargic
• heart palpitations
• dry mouth
• muscle aches
• shortness of breath
• tension headaches
• digestive problems
• difficulty sleeping/insomnia.
These physical symptoms of anxiety can often cause further worry from those with GAD, continuing the ongoing feeling of unease.
Treatments for GAD
Generalised anxiety disorder is a difficult condition to live with and tends to weigh heavily on the sufferer’s mind. It can feel as if you get no respite from the symptoms, so seeking support and treatment is recommended.
The different treatment options available to help ease your symptoms might include:
• psychological therapies
If you speak to your doctor this will help to determine which avenue to explore further, it is important to understand that every person is different and will respond differently to the available treatments, your doctor is likely to suggest suitable treatment options such as:
• Psychological therapies
• Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Applied relaxation is an alternative form of therapy, it is said to be as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the treatment of GAD. The techniques of applied relaxation involves relaxing muscles in a specific way when you feel anxious. This is best learned through a trained therapist who will teach you how to:
• relax your muscles
• relax your muscles quickly
• relax your muscles when you hear a trigger word (such as “relax”)
• relax your muscles when you begin to feel anxious.
By teaching your body to relax in those situations this will mean your mind will learn by association to relax too.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?