GENERALISED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)
You are unlikely to be surprised that
‘Anxiety’ and ‘Worry’ are both very common but manageable for
GAD on the other hand is characterised by excessive,
uncontrollable and often irrational worry accompanied with high
levels of apprehension about events or activities and constantly
anticipating ‘something bad is going to happen’. This excessive
worry often interferes with one’s daily functioning. People
experiencing GAD are overly concerned about everyday matters
such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship
problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work
Excessive worry results in many symptoms of anxiety which
affects our body and can lead to many unpleasant physical
symptoms such as palpitations, shallow or fast breathing,
feeling nauseous, headaches, sweating or shaking. Most of us
would have experienced some of these symptoms at some point.
However, for people who experience GAD, these symptoms can be
almost constant with little respite and therefore understandably
Anxiety also affects our mind that tends to produce many anxious
thoughts. People who have GAD often refer to ‘rushing thoughts’,
unable to rationalise and feeling ‘overwhelmed’.
It I’s important to emphasise that anxiety is a normal reaction
to danger and an important survival mechanism. For example,
feeling nervous before a job interview can have its advantages
as ‘speeding up’ means that we are ready for action and can
think on our feet and perform better. Of course, when we are in
real danger such as crossing a road whilst a car is approaching
too fast, these physical symptoms need to alert us to act, in
this instance, walk much faster.
Anxiety can become a problem when there is no danger, but our
mind imagines danger’. For example, if you have the tendency to
have hypothetical worries such as ‘What if get burgled or What
if I get involved in a road traffic accident’, it is
understandable that your body will produce ‘fight or flight’
response to prepare you for danger even though it is not real.
Think about it like a test fire alarm, the sound is the same but
there is no real danger of fire.
For many of us anxiety may begin when we are going through a
stressful time or we can also feel anxious when we perceive that
we are not able to deal with all the demands of life and work or
have sufficient resources to manage stress. Your personality
will play a role. Some people are better at managing stress and
multiple demands but unfortunately others may find stress more
difficult to handle, tend to react to stress differently, often
experiencing thoughts such as ‘I cannot cope’, they may benefit
from learning how to manage stress and anxiety better.
Most people I see who present with GAD experience unhelpful
thoughts about their physical symptoms as their symptoms may be
frightening. For example, it is common that people think that
there is something physically wrong with them, they are feeling
‘out of control’ or believe that they are going mad.
There are several strategies for controlling anxiety. Relaxation
techniques can help with physical symptoms, for example
controlled breathing or progressive muscle relaxation (learning
how to tense and release different muscle groups) and using
imagery and creating a safe place.
You can also learn how to recognise your anxious thoughts and
look for the evidence for what you think, identifying any
alternative views, asking yourself what is the worst that could
happen, what is the best that can happen and what is the most
realistic scenario. For example, using my previous example of a
job interview, the worst that can happen is that your mind would
freeze, and you would be silent during the interview or be
physically sick, the best scenario you would sail through it
with no anxiety and the most realistic scenario is that anxiety
would mobilise you and improve your performance.
GAD can become disabling for many people as they start avoiding
and their life becomes very restrictive. If you think you have
GAD which is negatively impacting on your life, you may benefit
from the evidence-based therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural
Therapy. If you live with someone with appears to have GAD,
encourage them to get help.