What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

These days, most of us are pretty clued up when it comes to anxiety; and in general people are considerably more aware than they used to be.



What is anxiety?

Anxiety is not just a singular health issue, but a term that describes a range of disorders, that affect people in different ways. Examples of anxiety disorders include: Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Specific phobia’s, such as Arachnophobia, are also a type of anxiety disorder.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder can be described as excessive, or chronic worrying about a variety of real, or imagined events in the future. The level of worrying can get out of hand, and is associated with a range of psychological, physical, and also behavioural symptoms.


In terms of how we think about things, Generalised Anxiety Disorder can be thought of as a sense of worry, or apprehension about something in the future. The focus of the anxiety can be on real events that are up and coming, but can also be focused on something that has only a small chance of happening. In some cases, the focus of the anxiety can be on future events that are incredibly unlikely to occur. The person may experience psychological symptoms such as:


  • Feeling a sense of dread

  • Feeling on edge

  • Feeling restless

  • Having difficulty concentrating or being easily distracted

  • Feeling irritable



Generalised Anxiety Disorder is well known to affect our thought processes, but it is also associated with a range of physical symptoms, which the person may, or may not connect to those thought processes. Physical / behavioural symptoms can include:


  • Headache

  • Muscle tension

  • Shaking / trembling

  • Feeling lightheaded

  • Butterflies in stomach

  • Nausea

  • Tiredness

  • Fatigue

  • Rapid breathing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pains 

  • Increased heart rate

  • Heart palpitations

  • Increased urination

  • Diarrhoea

  • Hot flashes

  • Sweating

  • Loss of appetite / Overeating


Generalised Anxiety Disorder also affects our behaviour. One of the main problems in this regard is usually avoidance. People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder tend to avoid all sorts of avenues of life, which often leads to underperformance at work, as well as withdrawal from personal relationships, and social commitments. The culmination of these behavioural affects, mean that people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder are often not living a life as rich, and fulfilling as they could be.  It’s important to take action if you think you have an anxiety disorder, as often the decrease in livelihood, and quality of life can lead to the onset of depression. If left unattended, avoidance of different aspects of life can often be a self exacerbating problem. When someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder starts to avoid life, they experience a temporary sense of relief from their anxiety, which increases the likelihood that the avoidance behaviours will continue, and possibly get worse. Treatment of Generalised Anxiety Disorder would initially focus on learning effective methods of relaxation, and some mindfulness techniques. We would also need to assess area’s of avoidance, and confront them, so that those areas of life are no longer avoided. Excessive worrying is a core feature of Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and it’s also important to monitor levels of worry, and to take steps to reduce it.  There are often small changes that we can make to our daily routine, that can help to reduce levels of anxiety. For example, making sure you get up at the same time every day, will help regulate your circadian rhythms. Also, don't forget to eat! Make sure that you eat your breakfast, before you do anything else! Eating a big breakfast containing protein, and fat, can go a long way in reducing anxiety levels. Sleeping properly, and eating regularly, will also help to regulate your mood as you go through the day, and you’ll probably find that things bother you a lot less.



John



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