A Guide to Generalized Anxiety

Disorder (GAD)

Client: Counseling Clinic | Category: Health and Self Help 

| Word Count: 600

Experiencing anxiety from time to time is normal. Everyone has the occasional ‘a knot in your stomach’ characterized by the feeling of worry, unease or nervousness. It is when these feelings of ‘fight or flight’ linger regularly, becoming overbearing and disruptive in your daily life, that you should consider seeking a professional for help.

 

Do You Have GAD?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry in everyday life, even when there are no major real events that might render such anxiousness. Daily life becomes a constant state of fear and apprehension, that it dominates your thoughts, making everyday functions such as work, school or social activities challenging.

 

When to Seek Help

So how do you tell between what’s normal and what’s not? For a start, you might have GAD if you experience the following symptoms on a regular basis:

 

Excessive Worry and Restlessness

How much worry is the benchmark? In the case of GAD, it means having persistent worrying thoughts on more than 4 days a week for 6 months. The severity of the anxiety interferes with daily activities and is accompanied by noticeable fatigue.

Sleep Problems

The ability to fall asleep or stay asleep is a sign of GAD. This includes waking up feeling wired and mind racing with thoughts, while unable to calm yourself down.

An Unrealistic View on Problems

Having irrational and exaggerated fears while being detached from reality, constantly expecting disaster can be a tell-tale sign of anxiety.

Heart Palpitations

Described as the unusual awareness of a racing or pounding heart, anxiety can cause an increase or irregular heartbeat.

 

Irritability and Trouble Concentrating

Anxiety often causes negative thoughts and emotions, taking up a lot of bandwidth on mental energy, hence causing irritability and the lack of mental capacity to navigate other daily activities, affecting focus and concentration.

 

Muscle Tensions and Headaches

Stress from anxiety can cause headaches and chronic muscle tension. This symptom is so persistent that have lived with it for a very long time may have adopted tolerance, and may have stopped noticing it.

 

Chronic Digestive Problems

In all ‘fight or flight’ situations, the body sends a large supply of blood to the head to focus on survival rather than other secondary body functions such as digestion. GAD causes chronic problems such as irritable bowel movement and gastritis.

What You Can Do

GAD can be caused by genetics, brain chemistry or environmental factors. It can be treated by either medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is common to feel so on edge like everything is falling apart, but on your own, you can take the below steps to start helping yourself feel better:

  • Be heard, seek catharsis. Speak to a professional for support on your anxiety, instead of silently shouldering all your fears. Counseling is an effective way to help you cope with anxiety in your daily life.

  • Stop or reduce the consumption of caffeine in products such as tea, coffee, and cola. Caffeine affects the body much like stress, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones, exacerbating your anxiety symptoms.

  • Although fatigue is common in anxiety, studies have shown that regular exercise can work as well as medication in some to reduce symptoms of anxiety with long-lasting effects. A regular schedule of exercise can significantly reduce anxiety over time.

  • Avoiding alcohol can prevent anxiety from worsening. Although the initial effects of alcohol may be comforting, it makes you edgy and interferes with sleep as it is being processed by the body.

  • Ensuring a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can make you feel better and is the hallmark of overall physical and mental health. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon have shown to improve mental health.

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