Saturday, June 9, 2012

What!? Me? Worry!?

Everyone experiences anxiety now and then. We all have feelings of nervousness or a sense of being worried about something. In fact, 2 in 5 people worry at least once a day.  However, when it becomes out of control, and starts to interfere with the course of your everyday life, to the extent that you retreat from it, then you know there is an issue to address. About 1 in 20 people suffers from anxiety disorders. Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD is the most common. GAD sufferers are often characterised by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrationally worry about the smallest things.

As with everything else, too much of something can be bad for you. GAD can easily become a problem, causing distress or impairing one’s quality of life. Sufferers feel anxious most days for at least six months, and worry to the point where it affects their well being. They can feel tired, edgy, and restless, develop insomnia, get breathless and become irritable, frustrated & agitated. The inability to relax also leads to muscle tension.

What causes GAD?

Nobody knows for sure what causes generalised anxiety disorder but they can generally be divided as biological and psychological factors.

No single gene has been connected to GAD. However, individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders may tend to be vulnerable to developing one, and not necessarily GAD. People born with a particular anxiety temperament may also be more likely to develop another type of anxiety later on in their lives.

While our biology may make us more vulnerable to an anxiety disorder, not all of us will develop a serious and problematic anxiety. It all depends on how well we cope with life’s stressors and events. A traumatic or stressful and often uncontrollable life’s event can trigger and contribute to GAD. This can often be a financial disaster, a broken relationship or a health threat. People who have been unfortunately grazed by such events tend to have a negative outlook in life and worry unnecessarily. This becomes their way of coping and preparing for the uncertainties in life, thinking that they are better prepared for what may come.

Once GAD develops, it can become chronic. The good news is that it can be managed with proper treatment. Many sufferers seek advise and support from specialist doctors and psychologists, and CBT in particular has proved very effective in many cases.

There are also some simple techniques that can be practiced at home to help manage your anxiety. Meditation, muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing, reading and yoga all help with anxiety. Daily walks or light exercises can also help lighten your mood as these physical activities release ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins. Talking about your worries and problems with someone you trust also helps lift a lot off your chest. If you’re not very comfortable doing this then start a journal and pen them down. Furthermore, focus your thoughts in the present, rather than worrying about the past or what may come in the future. It will also help to learn to find a balance between work, family, social life and hobbies, removing the factors that may cause you stress. A healthy diet is also beneficial at many levels.

With the right treatment and support, GAD sufferers can learn to cope with their symptoms and improve their quality of life. If not addressed, they may worsen with long term physical, psychological and social effects.

About Matt

Matt runs a website, called How to Deal with Anxiety, that provides wide ranging advice on dealing with anxiety and stress. You can visit the site at:

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