Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a recognised and common condition, with its characteristic indicator of on-going anxiety without any apparent cause. Sometimes referred to as excessive worry, chronic worry or being a worry wort. Approximately 1 in every 20 adults in Britain suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Somewhat more females are influenced than men, and the disorder is most usual in people in their 20’s.
Anxiety is a natural part of day-to-day living and may occur in our work, social and personal life. At appropriate levels, anxiety is in fact very valuable as it keeps us safe by helping us avoid possible threats, it can motivate us, and it guarantees we think tasks through prior to doing them. Depending on how we evaluate them, worrying events can have the power to actually strengthen us and build our confidence and self esteem; as it can broaden our comfort zones, and encourage us to take action to overcome misunderstandings and improve our relationships with others. For many people however, the intensity of the anxiety becomes so intense that it overwhelms them and interferes with their everyday activities.
The cause of Generalised Anxiety Disorder is not simple and can be attributed to multiple factors. Environmental factors can contribute to high degrees of stress and anxiety. Long-term or unusually high amounts of emotional distress from life events such as relationship break ups, bereavement, job loss, financial problems, illness, work stress, and absence of support networks may contribute to the creation of anxiety disorders. Genetic susceptibility might additionally mean some people are much more vulnerable to stress and anxiety than others. It is not uncommon for someone to have symptoms of more than one anxiety disorder, so someone with generalised anxiety disorder may also suffer to a greater or lesser degree from one or more of the following: OCD, social anxiety disorder, phobias, somatoform disorder or PTSD.
The usual treatment for anxiety is medication and/or a psychological therapy such as psychotherapy, counselling or CBT.
Typical Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised Anxiety Disorder can impair you both physically and psychologically.
Psychological signs of Generalised Anxiety Disorder could be:
a feeling of fear or dread
feeling constantly “on edge”
being easily sidetracked
The physical signs of Generalised Anxiety can feature:
drowsiness and tiredness
pins and needles
irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
muscular tissue aches and tension
too much sweating
lack of breath
frequent need to go to the toilet
trouble dropping or remaining asleep (insomnia and sleep disorders)
Treatment for Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalised anxiety disorder treatment in more acute cases will require professional help. It is necessary to first rule out any possible physical cause for your anxiety, so explore your symptoms with your GP first. Supportive talk therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and CBT are of immense value in the treatment of Generalised Anxiety Disorder. In some cases however the anxiety may be so intense that your doctor will prescribe medication.
Brief Therapies that make use of cognitive and behavioral strategies have been shown to be an effective therapy for anxiety disorders. With these therapies you are shown ways to recognise and change the thought patterns that are causing your GAD, and ways to perceive each anxiety attack more realistically, so you realize that it is your mind and not the situation itself that is causing your anxiety. Learning to experience your fears and tackle them aids in expanding your comfort zones and can build your confidence and self-esteem.
Sometimes having an explanation of what is taking place in your body when you feel nervous, and a discussion about any worrying physical symptoms, generally helps reduce the anxiety by helping you realise that you do not have a serious physical disorder. Uncertainty worsens stress and anxiety so having an understanding of them and a clear procedure for dealing with it often helps.
Learning to literally manage the physical symptoms of your anxiousness using breathing techniques, awareness exercises, and muscle relaxation, will permit you to manage your bodily responses when you start to feel anxious.
Self-help for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
There are many effective ways to help yourself manage GAD and other anxiety disorders. However if you have severe anxiety then you should also seek professional assistance.
Action or acceptance: The vast majority of what we worry about will never actually occur. Also for a large percentage of the things we worry about, we actually have absolutely no control or influence over. So notice what you are worrying about, and ask yourself, do you personally have any direct control or influence over what you are worrying about? If the answer is yes, make an action plan and begin to take steps to change the situation so that it no longer worries you. Taking action, even if it is just small steps often helps alleviate stress and anxiety. If instead you realise you actually don’t have any control over what you are worrying about then finding a way to think differently about and accept what is happening is going to be much more beneficial and healthy. In fact the less anxious you are the more resourceful you’ll be, and the better able to cope and deal with whatever life throws at you.
Lifestyle changes: Particular lifestyle activities can cause anxiety, or make existing anxiety even worse, such as drinking too much caffeine, an unhealthy diet, inadequate sleep routines, use of recreational drugs, lack of exercise, and social seclusion to name a few. Start by drinking less caffeine, develop a well balanced healthy diet and regular workout regimen, establish a healthy sleep routine, reduce your alcohol intake, and seek the company and support of your friends and family.
Relaxation: An easy and remarkably effective anxiety disorder treatment is deep relaxation. This has been shown to be as effective as anxiolytic drugs when practiced once or twice daily. Any form of relaxation is going to be helpful, but relaxation procedures that supply both mental and deep muscle relaxation will be the most beneficial. Routine use of relaxation procedures such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing technique, meditation, biofeedback, mindfulness, yoga, and self-hypnosis have all been shown to be valuable.
Nigel Magowan is based in Manchester, England, and is a professional and experienced Solution-Focused Integrative Psychotherapist/Counsellor, NLP Master Practitioner and Life Coach. He has been in full-time private practice since 2002 and uses a flexible integrative approach which combines all his training, skills and experience to produce a Brief Therapy treatment that is customised to your unique personal needs. Over the years he has increasingly specialised in treating the various anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety at his Manchester practice. He is also an Approved Anxiety UK Therapist in Manchester. As someone who has previously suffered from anxiety, he is able to bring his own personal understanding and empathy into his anxiety related work with his clients. His Manchester psychotherapy, NLP, and counselling practice in Chorlton, South Manchester is near to Didsbury, Withington, Salford, Worsley, Stretford, Altrincham, Stockport, Cheadle, Macclesfield. Call him on 0161 881 4333 to discuss your generalised anxiety disorder, make an enquiry or book your initial appointment now.