What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder? An Overview
People who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, also known as GAD, find it difficult to control their worries related to common situations, scenarios, and everyday life. It is also sometimes known in the medical field as chronic anxiety neurosis.
Generalised anxiety disorder differentiates itself from typical bouts of anxiety as, while it is a normal human emotion to feel anxious from time to time about certain events in your life, a person who suffers from GAD can worry uncontrollably about a topic several times a day, up to months on end. This can even occur when there isn’t a reason for them to worry.
Generalised anxiety disorder is a fairly common disorder in the UK, with around every 6 in 100 people being diagnosed with the disorder every week, and according to the NHS, is estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population.
Sometimes, people with GAD just cannot escape the feeling of worry, but they are unable to describe or point out what they are actually worried about. They simply describe a feeling of dread, or something bad may happen, or they just can’t help but feel worried.
Being excessively worried can be frightening for those close to those suffering from generalised anxiety disorder, and it can even affect relationships and daily activities for the worse.
General Anxiety Symptoms
Below, we describe some physical and mental symptoms and signs of generalised anxiety disorder. These are good to know so that you know what to look for in someone else who may be suffering from an anxiety attack or panic attack, or in yourself.
- Perceiving situations as more threatening than reality
- Finding it difficult to let go of worries
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Difficulty with uncertain situations
- Showing signs of irritability, nervousness, and overthinking
- Having a hard time relaxing
- Experiencing fatigue and exhaustion around social situations
- Muscle tension
- Frequent stomach aches, diarrhoea, or various other gastrointestinal issues
- Sweaty or clammy palms
- Feelings of shakiness or weakness
- Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Being easily startled and skittish
- Neurological symptoms involving numbness or tingling around the body
Compared to general anxiety disorder in adults, childhood and teenage anxiety can occur more frequently. About 1 in 4 children experience it at some point in their teen years, with symptoms in younger people including:
- Anxiety relating to fitting in with their peers
- Confidence and self-esteem issues
- Excessive worry and avoidance related to social situations and schoolwork
- Worrying about approval from teachers and others in positions of authority
- Frequent physical issues like stomach aches
Generalised Anxiety Disorder Causes and Risk Factors
The causes and risk factors for developing a mental health issue such as generalised anxiety disorder may include both environmental and genetic factors. These include:
- A family history of anxiety sufferers
- Recent or prolonged exposure to stressful situations, including personal or family illnesses
- Excessive use of caffeinated products or tobacco as these can make pre-existing anxiety worse
- Childhood abuse or bullying
- Certain health conditions such as problems with the thyroid or heart arrhythmias
2015 studies suggest that those who live with generalised anxiety disorders can experience activation in certain areas of the brain that are normally associated with mental activity and introspective thinking. This is typically when the sufferer encounters situations that could cause worry.
Further studies in 2015 also show that the prevalence of generalised anxiety disorder is around 7.7% in women and 4.6% in men over their respective lifetimes. It is also known to be more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59.
How is GAD Different from Other Mental Health Issues?
Whilst anxiety is a common symptom of many mental health issues like depression and multiple different phobias, generalised anxiety disorder has a variety of differences that sets it apart from these other issues.
People who suffer from depression may occasionally feel anxious, and those who have different specific phobias may worry about being exposed to one particular thing, but people who have GAD worry about a variety of different variables over a long stretch of time. This can be from 6 months, or more, and they may even be unable to identify the cause and source of their worries.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Overcoming generalized anxiety is more accessible than ever today. There is a range of generalised anxiety treatments that are designed to help you get a better handle on your mental health. The effective treatments for generalised anxiety disorder include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the process of meeting with a mental health professional regularly. The goal of this treatment is to help you to change your way of thinking and behaviours in order to reduce symptoms of anxiety. This approach has been linked with lower anxiety in symptoms within one year after completing treatment.
Cognitive behavioural therapy may even be more effective for generalised anxiety disorder than for other types of anxiety-related conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD).
During therapy sessions, the person with generalised anxiety disorder will be aided in learning how to recognise and manage their anxious thoughts, while also being taught how to effectively calm themselves when these upsetting thoughts do eventually arise.
Alongside cognitive behavioural therapy, medication is also often prescribed trying to treat GAD.
If medication is recommended to you by a medical professional, you will most likely receive a long and short-term medication plan which are designed to help quell the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder both physically, and mentally.
Short-term anti-anxiety medications will only be used to relax the physical symptoms you experience from anxiety, these include muscle tension and stomach cramping. These are only to be used in the short term due to the high risk of dependence and abuse.
For long-term treatment, antidepressants can work well. These medications can take a few weeks to begin working effectively, and they can even have side effects ranging from dry mouth to diarrhoea. These symptoms can bother those taking the medication so much that they stop taking them.
Many people can find relief from generalised anxiety disorder by adopting certain lifestyle or behavioural changes. These changes can include things like:
- Trying to get in some regular exercise
- Making sure to eat a balanced and magnesium and nutrient-rich range of foods
- Ensuring you get enough foods
- Try yoga and meditation and see if mindfulness if for you
- Avoiding stimulants where possible, eg: coffee and some medications
- Simply talking with a trusted friend or significant other can help alleviate some fears and worries
Alcohol and Anxiety
Many people suffer from alcohol problems because the effects alcohol has can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety almost immediately. However, it is greatly important to remember that alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it can have a negative effect on your mood. Within a few hours after starting drinking, or the day after, you may feel a heightened level of anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Alcohol can also interfere with the effectiveness of how some medications treat anxiety. If you find that your drinking has become a problem, and is interfering with your daily life, we highly recommend talking with a GP. From there, you will be able to access free support to stop drinking through support groups.
Here at OHMG, we tout our delicious magnesium-infused water as an alternative to water, and studies show that a daily intake of between 75 and 360 mg of magnesium can have anti-anxiety effects. So, by increasing your daily magnesium intake with a can of OHMG, which has as much magnesium as an avocado (56mg), you can get that extra boost throughout the day.
Try OHMG magnesium water to help reduce symptoms of anxiety today.
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