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Understanding Mental Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

What is GAD?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a clinical and long-term condition that is characterised by excessive and enduring worry about a number of different things. With GAD, anxiety is experienced in many commonplace situations, rather than in just typically worry-inducing contexts. This is a common disorder that affects roughly 1 in 25 people in the UK.

Symptoms of GAD

Do you regularly feel ‘on edge’, restless, irritable or unable to control or stop worrying? 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 or light-headed, more tired than usual, nauseous, or short of breath? Have you been experiencing irregular heartbeats, muscle tension, extreme sweating, headaches, shaking, or difficulty falling or staying asleep? 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 professional help. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving, or if your state has impacted your everyday life.

What causes GAD?

While there may be many causes of GAD, it is likely the result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Research has found that there may be a genetic component to the condition. As such, being related to someone with GAD may make you more vulnerable to develop the disorder. GAD can also 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 coping with a long-term health condition, a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse or the experience of traumatic or stressful events, such as abuse.

Treating GAD

Several treatments have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of GAD. These range from psychological therapy, to medication, to lifestyle changes. One common type of psychological therapy that has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Typical CBT sessions involve talking through one’s problems with a certified clinician, with the aim of understanding how one’s own thoughts impact one’s 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 have also been shown to 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. Committing to a number of lifestyle changes can also help you manage your symptoms of anxiety. This could include engaging in regular exercise, reducing the intake of alcohol and caffeine, quitting smoking and getting enough restful sleep.

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