?No, it?s not in my head!? Coping with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

by | Feb 15, 2012

Worrying about that presentation at work next week? Feeling anxious about an upcoming medical exam? Stressing about your kids? welfare? Worries are part and parcel of leading a busy life in this modern, hectic world, but when the worries take over and become something more serious like General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), they can impact on your health and happiness. Approximately 6.8 million American adults suffer from General Anxiety Disorder and some believe that number is increasing each year.

So what is General Anxiety Disorder?
It is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by an excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. As well as the irrational worries about wealth, health and the well-being of family and friends, GAD sufferers often exhibit a variety of physical symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, nausea, muscle tension or aches, numbness in hands and feet, trembling, twitching and rashes.

How do you know if you have General Anxiety Disorder rather than just ?normal? worries?
?Normal? worries include

  • Your worrying doesn?t get in the way of your daily activities and responsibilities.
  • You are able to control your worrying.
  • Your worries, while unpleasant, don?t cause significant distress.
  • Your worries are limited to a specific, small number of realistic concerns.
  • Your bouts of worrying last only a short time period.

General Anxiety Disorder

  • Your worrying significantly disrupts your job, activities, or social life.
  • Your worrying is uncontrollable.
  • Your worries are extremely upsetting and stressful.
  • You worry about all sorts of things, and tend to expect the worst.
  • You?ve been worrying almost every day for at least six months and the accompanying physical symptoms have also been present for a similar amount of time.

How to cope with General Anxiety Disorder
If you have GAD, there are many things you can do to make yourself feel better and you don?t necessarily have to seek out professional help. For some, self-help strategies are enough to get the anxiety symptoms under control. For others, additional therapy and support is needed. But whether you seek medical attention or not, self-help coping techniques will help reduce your overall anxiety levels.

Effective self-help techniques for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include:

  • Dealing with your worry and anxiety in a productive way such as challenging irrational worrisome thoughts, learning how to postpone worrying, and learning to accept uncertainty in your life.
  • Instigating anxiety-reducing lifestyle changes, such as eliminating caffeine, starting an exercise program, improving your diet, and drawing on the support of family and friends.
  • Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga. Consciously relaxing for even 20 minutes can make a difference!

When to seek treatment
If despite trying out the self-help techniques listed above your anxiety is still getting in the way of your life and/or your emotional well-being, it?s time to seek professional help. Before you do that, though, it is important to make sure that your symptoms are truly due to GAD. If you have struggled with anxiety and fears your whole life, it?s likely that your anxiety symptoms are due to GAD. However, if your anxiety symptoms are relatively new, this could be a sign of a different problem. For example, many medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety, as can traumatic experiences. The worries created by these situations are usually short-lived and not related to GAD.

It can be difficult for the possible GAD sufferer to be objective about their symptoms so it is always best to seek a mental health professional to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. GAD is often accompanied by other problems, such as depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders so for your treatment to succeed, it?s important for these factors to be considered so that you receive help for ALL of the problems you?re dealing with.

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