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Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as “an anxiety disorder marked by chronic excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control, causes distress or impairment in daily functioning, and is accompanied by three or more associated symptoms (such as restlessness, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances).”

It is completely normal to feel anxious whilst we go about our day. Anxiety can help to prompt us to clean up our house or to go for a walk. However, people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) often experience anxiety for much of the day about a multitude of different things.

People experiencing GAD are often aware (but not always) that the amount of things they are worried about and the time spent worrying is largely contributing to their anxiety. They have come to believe that any worst-case scenario could be looming just around the corner, and because of this they spend a great deal of time worrying and ruminating about all the "What ifs?" GAD sufferers become worn out from worrying and often feel like they want to ‘escape’ from their 'thought prison'. The problem is that they do not know how. You have probably heard people say, “You worry too much”, or “Stop worrying about it.” This may be well intentioned advice from others but as you know, it is not helpful. The more we try to stop our thoughts or our rumination, the bigger our anxiety becomes. Psychotherapy with Anxiety Mentor will help you step out of this battle between you and your mind.

Additionally, the more time a person spends worrying and the more threatening, and imminent their perceived threat is believed to be the more intense and frequent a person’s anxiety will be. For example, worrying that somebody is going to come to your house today and shoot you with a gun will trigger a more intense level of anxiety compared with worrying that you might not get selected for that job promotion next month.

People experiencing GAD will often experience multiple physical symptoms. These symptoms can be frequent, intense, and lead the person to believe that they are experiencing a serious medical condition, thus creating more anxiety.

GAD Symptoms

  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Indecisiveness
  • “Crazy” thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

This list of symptoms is not exhaustive, with possible GAD symptoms being almost endless and overlapping with other anxiety disorders. GAD can lead to significant distress and impact a person's functioning in any and all areas of their life. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may cooccur with other anxiety disorders, such as Social Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Health Anxiety, and Agoraphobia.

Worst Case Scenarios

Everyone worries to a certain extent but for most people their worries are fleeting and proportionate. Someone experiencing GAD worries about lots of different things to the point that they are in almost constant state of anxiety. They become caught up with all the “What ifs” and worst-case scenarios.

  • What if I get hit by a truck when I am driving my car?
  • What if I get rejected by that person when asking them out?
  • What if people at the party don’t like me?
  • What if I stuff up my presentation at school or at work?
  • What if this pain in my chest is a sign that I am having a heart attack?

Does this sound like you? What if thinking, is one of the biggest contributors to anxiety disorders. If you really want to overcome from troublesome anxiety, then this needs to be addressed. Now, let’s say you were about to be attacked by somebody. Before we have a chance to assess the situation, the amygdala, aka the fear and emotional centre of the brain, will alert the rest of the brain that you are in danger and suppress the logical parts of your brain. It needs to suppress the logical parts of the brain because, if you had time to stand there logically assessing if you are in real danger, you would be dead. This fight or flight response needs to happen at lightning speed in order to flood your body with adrenaline as quickly as possible to prepare you to fight or to run away. If you perceive that you can handle the threat, then you may face it and fight. If you perceive that you can’t handle the threat, then you will run. Either way, these stress hormones help you to survive the situation. They helped to prime your muscles for action. Have you ever noticed that you can run much faster when you’re scared? The amygdala’s primary concern is to keep you alive. The trouble with what if thinking is that these same fight or flight alerts are being triggered when you simply imagine ‘scary’ scenarios.

Treatment

Many people experiencing GAD recognise that they worry too much and that it is the chief reason for their anxiety, but the problem is that they often do not know how to stop. Constant worry has major physiological consequences, which leaves a person feeling on edge. It is as though a person experiencing chronic GAD is constantly being chased by a lion. GAD is one of the most problematic anxiety disorders to treat, mainly because it can be difficult to isolate the subject of their worries. When dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), for example, an individuals’ worries often revolve around a limited number of things. People experiencing GAD worry about a multitude of things and therefore treatment can be more complex. However, GAD is very treatable, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), considered as the ‘gold standard’ for GAD and other anxiety disorders. Therapy with Anxiety Mentor will help you to understand the mechanics of anxiety, what makes it worse, what keeps it going, and what you can do to eliminate GAD from your life.

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