Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Anxiety Therapy
How do I know if I’m experiencing a normal amount of anxiety, or need more support?
By Jess Hayes - 30/06/2020
Do you feel anxious all the time? Do your thoughts whirlwind? Have you ever thought about looking into anxiety therapy, talking to a Doctor, or learning a little bit more about why your day-to-day life seems so much harder than everyone else’s?
If any of the below sentences sound familiar, you may be experiencing Generalised Anxiety Disorder;
‘My thoughts spiral’
‘I can’t stop thinking about everything, all of the time’
‘I worry about stuff that I know I don’t need to worry about’
‘I feel restless and on edge, I keep getting angry and snapping at people’
‘I always feel a sense of dread that something bad will happen and I can’t get rid of it’
Why Do We Feel Anxiety?
Anxiety is really common. Why wouldn’t it be? Over millions of years, our brains have evolved to give us a fight-or-flight response to any sort of danger;
As simple cavemen, interested only in survival, we used this instinct to keep us alive – it’s what prompted us to run away from sabretooth tigers or to fight for the warmest shelter or best cut of meat.
Fast forward a couple of millennia and our lives are much more complex. Think about all the things we need to worry about now – jobs, money, partners, family, making a good impression, social media, how we look… the list is endless! All of these things can be viewed as a threat to us and often spark that fight-or-flight response.
Annoyingly, in today’s world, that instinctive response can sometimes do more harm than good – we can’t really just run away from our financial worries (even though that sounds fantastic), or attack our boss when they pull us into a disciplinary!
Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?
So how do we know if we are just anxious about the stresses of life OR if we’re experiencing a level of anxiety that can be classed as something we might need more help with?
To help understand how limiting your anxiety is, try asking yourself the following questions:
1. Does your anxiety have a big impact on how you live your life?
2. Does anxiety stop you from doing things that make you happy?
3. Does anxiety affect your sleep?
4. Do your thoughts get so loud and happen so often that it stops you relaxing, or making decisions?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then you may wish to learn a little bit more about anxiety and the support available to you.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is anxiety that doesn’t have one key theme (see my article on social or health anxiety) but the level of anxiety will be intense and have an impact on your day-to-day life. The worries can be about lots of different things or several main themes, but all tend to result in one underlying thought: “something bad is going to happen”.
Those ‘what if’ thought spirals are really common to GAD, as is being uncomfortable (or even fearful) of anything unpredictable or uncertain. Because of this, if we are experiencing GAD, we might start to avoid things, especially things which take us out of familiar “safe” surroundings. This makes it really hard to do things that might make us happy and so our mood might also become low. We might plan everything and try to control things where we can, and even become irritable and angry when we can’t do this. Sometimes this can make it hard in relationships and friendships, and can lead to us feeling bad about ourselves too.
Anxiety Therapy: Understanding Your Responses
Something positive you might take from this is that anxiety, in all of its forms (including GAD) is something we can get help with. Having GAD now doesn’t mean that you will always experience this. There is a lot of evidence that anxiety therapy or (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help with this, and your first step should always be to talk to a professional – be it a trained therapist or your GP – to help understand your options.
An anxiety therapist will help you pick apart the thought processes, emotions and ingrained responses which turn “feeling anxious” into a Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). By understanding those triggers, and recognising them, your aim will be to break the negative patterns of behaviour.
If you’d like to read more on the subject, I’ve included some free resources below to get you started:
If you think you may benefit from speaking to a trained professional, do give me a ring. The phone call will be completely free, with no obligations, and I can help you understand your options.