Most people feel anxious during certain contexts in their life, such as when attending a job interview. However, many individuals experience more enduring and frequent states of anxiety, where the feelings are difficult to control, and can begin to impact daily life. Generalised-anxiety disorder (GAD) is a clinical and long-term condition, that can cause anxiety in a number of commonplace situations, rather than in just typically worry-inducing contexts. This is a common disorder, that is affects roughly 1 in 25 people in the UK
Symptoms of anxiety
Do you regularly feel restless, ‘on edge,’ or irritable? Do you often feel a sense of dread about future events, or have difficulty concentrating on a task at hand? Do worries, fears, and negative emotions cause you distress on a regular basis?
Do you regularly feel dizzy, tired, nauseous, or short of breath? Have you been experiencing irregular heartbeats, muscle tension, extreme sweating, headaches, shaking, or difficulty getting to sleep?
If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms for a period of a few weeks, you may be suffering from GAD and should seek help. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving, or if your state has affected your everyday life.
What causes anxiety?
While there may be many causes of GAD, it is likely the result of a combination of several things. Research has found that there is a strong biological connection with GAD, and there may be a genetic component to the condition. Therefore, being related to someone who has GAD may make you more vulnerable to develop the disorder. Anxiety disorders can be caused by an imbalance of certain brain chemicals or over-activity in various brain areas that are involved in regulation of mood and emotions.
Certain life experiences may also trigger GAD, such as a long-term health condition, a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse or the experience of traumatic or stressful events, such as abuse.
How treatments work for anxiety
Several treatments can be effective in treating the symptoms of GAD. These range from psychological therapy, to medication, to lifestyle changes.
One common type of treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Typical CBT sessions involve talking through one’s problems with a certified clinician, with the aim to understand how one’s own thoughts impact their negative emotions and behaviours. Patient and clinician then work together to alter these negative thought patterns and behaviours, in order to improve one’s feelings and experiences.
Medications can also be very effective in treating GAD. These aim to restore an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, which are responsible for many of the observable symptoms of anxiety. Combination therapy, in which medication is taken along with undergoing talking therapy, can be particularly effective.
You can also help yourself with your own anxiety, by committing to a number of lifestyle changes. This could include regular exercise, quitting smoking, or reducing your intake of alcohol and caffeine.