We all experience anxiety and worry from time to time and this is completely normal. You may feel anxious when sitting an exam or waiting for medical treatment or taking part in a job interview. However, there are many people who struggle to control their worries and therefore anxiety begins to have an effect on their day-to-day lives.
There are many different conditions in which anxiety is one of the main symptoms such as:
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Today we are focusing on GAD.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a long-term condition which makes people feel anxious in regards to a wide range of situations, it can make an individual feel anxious throughout most days often making it hard to remember a time where they felt relaxed and at ease.
GAD can show in a variety of ways:
- Feeling restless
- Having a sense of dread
- Finding it hard to concentrate for any period of time
- Being irritable
- Feeling tense and nervous
- Feeling as though the world is speeding up or slowing down around you
- Believing that other people can tell you are anxious by looking at you (which can make the anxiety worse)
- Worrying about anxiety itself
- Worrying about things that might happen in the future, rather than focusing on the present
- A noticeable change in the heartbeat – strong and fast
- Muscle aches and tension
- Dry mouth
- Increased sweating
- Feeling breathless
- Feeling nauseous
- Pins and needles
- Insomnia relates symptoms (finding it hard to fall asleep, waking numerous times throughout the night)
- Grinding of teeth (especially of a night time)
- Needing to go to the toilet more or less than usual
- Having panic attacks
- Experiencing changes in your sex drive
There is no direct cause of anxiety, however, there are some factors that are believed to contribute to its development.
If you have experienced traumatic or stressful events, such as domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, being involved in an accident, experiencing a serious physical illness, losing a loved one etc, you may be more at risk for developing anxiety. You may also have a higher risk of anxiety if you have a history of alcohol or drug misuse or if you are experiencing a painful, long-term health condition. There is also evidence to suggest that you are 5 times more likely to develop anxiety if you have a close relative (such as a parent or sibling) who also has the condition.
Other contributing factors include chemical imbalances in the brain, mainly to do with serotonin and noradrenaline, as these are the chemicals responsible for mood regulation. You may have a higher chance of developing anxiety if you experience overactivity within certain areas of your brain, mainly the areas which control emotions and behaviours.
However, many people can also develop anxiety for no apparent reason.
In the UK alone, 8.2 million people (according to 2013 statistics) suffer from anxiety, with twice as many women than men being diagnosed. This accounts for approximately 5% of the UK population.
Treatments Available for Anxiety:
There is a range of different treatments to help individuals who suffer from anxiety. These come in the form of professional help, medical help and self-help treatments.
There are various workbooks and online resources which can help an individual to manage their anxiety without the need for professional involvement. These will include mindfulness techniques and relaxation techniques as well as helping the individual to better their problem-solving skills. These techniques can be found online and also at various support groups.
If self-help techniques alone are not helping, the individual should speak to their general practitioner (GP). In many cases the individual may be presented with medication such as antidepressants, beta-blockers (which help with the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat), benzodiazepines (often given in severe cases of anxiety, in small doses and with regular check-ups, as this is a strong drug which can become addictive) and pregabalin, which is often used for epilepsy also helps with anxiety!
The GP can also refer the individual to talking therapies such as:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy focuses on the individual’s thoughts, beliefs and attitudes and how they affect their behaviour and feelings. It helps the individual to challenge their negative thought patterns and learn better, more positive ways of thinking as well as better ways of approaching and dealing with their problems.
- Applied Relaxation Therapy: This helps the individual to relax their body and mind when faced with situations that would usually cause them anxiety.
If you think that you are experiencing anxiety, please contact your GP or find online resources to help you.