Don’t Be Scared: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Don’t Be Scared: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

If you feel like you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re certainly not alone. Anxiety affects approximately 12% of Canadians. Nine percent of men, and about 16% of women in any given year. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in Canada. Although, they are also highly treatable. Anxiety is a common reaction that many people experience. It is natural to feel nervous before an exam, or to have butterflies in the stomach well in the waiting room about to undergo surgery. An anxiety disorder, however, is diagnosed when various symptoms of anxiety create significant distress and some degree of functional impairment, in their daily living. A person with an anxiety disorder may find it strenuous to function in areas of life such as social interactions, family relationships, work and or school. Often, various anxiety disorders occur together or with other conditions such as depression or substance abuse.

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder, characterized by pervasive, and hard-to-control state of worry or anxiety that last at least six months (APA,2013). People with GAD also may experience boats of insomnia, body restlessness, hard time trying to concentrate, and or muscle tension. Adults must have at least three of the symptoms mentioned in order to be diagnosed with GAD. Females are twice as likely as males to experience GAD.

Unlike most other anxiety disorders, people with GAD often have it throughout their lives and can have a hard time recalling when they first experienced the symptoms (Barlow, 2004). In everyday language, we might call such a person a “worrywart”—someone who worries about anything and everything, often out of proportion to the actual threat. The director, actor, and writer Woody Allan has made is career out of his pervasive tendency to worry. Allan says he uses film making and writer as a creative distraction from his anxiety (Briggs, 2005). The constant anxiety of GAD can be debilitating, however, preventing many people who suffer from it from being able to work at all.

For a variety of reasons, unfortunately, many individuals may not seek treatment for their anxiety; they may consider the symptoms mild or normal, or the symptoms themselves may interfere with help-seeking.

The good news is, there are many scientifically backed (evidence-based) treatments available to help with anxiety disorders. These include a form of psychotherapy, called, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as well as certain types of medication, specifically developed to help alleviate the symptoms. Both types of treatment have been shown to be equally effective. If people do not show signs of improvement with one form of treatment, they are likely to improve with another. These treatments are generally used separately, but they may also be used in combination. And in this day and age, one can find various support groups online, and meetup groups. Where one can discuss and get the support of other who are or who had anxiety symptoms like their own. They are a safe environment to seek the support needed to find and discuss suitable treatment options.  

One common cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) based practice, is writing out the thoughts that occur well feeling anxious. They are typically negative, so put them under and label that column negative. Then, in another column, beside the negative one, label it positive. Find a positive within that negative thought and write it down. Eventually, you will figure out the underlying thought(s) causing the anxiety. It’s a great way to get it out of your head. Doing it daily if need be, you’ll start to find a commonalty of reoccurring thoughts, with enough practice these problem causing thoughts will start to diminish. Exercise can do wonders as well for feeling anxious.   

Sources: Psychology evaluating connections, When Panic Attacks 


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