If we have money worries or a sick loved one we feel stressed and worried. If we see an item on TV that is disturbing, such as a terror attack, we feel horror, temporary distress and dismay, yet we continue with our activities and can put it out of our minds.
This type of ongoing, all-over anxiety is called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
If you experience this level of anxiety, you feel worried about many things. You worry about your finances, your family, your car, your pets, literally anything can cause concern. Sometimes even thinking about how to get through your day makes you feel anxious. This is mentally and physically exhausting.
It’s common for people with GAD to have other conditions such as depression, or other anxiety disorders. These anxiety-related disorders can include:
- Panic attacks – where you have a sudden and severe surge of anxiety and fear that happens in response to something in particular that affects you (a trigger).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – where you have obsessive, uncontrollable thoughts and perform deliberate repetitive actions (compulsions).
GAD comes on gradually and can begin at any time in your life, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.
Anxiety levels in most people with GAD fluctuate – when their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and be gainfully employed. When their anxiety is severe, some people may have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities.
What causes anxiety?
What is known is that the wiring of some areas of the brain are affected in those with GAD and other anxiety disorders, and scientists continue to try to understand what that means and how it could lead to a better understanding of the condition and how to provide better treatment for those who experience it.
Children and young people
Children and teens with GAD often don’t realize that their anxiety is out of proportion to the situation, so adults need to recognise their symptoms.
As well as many of the symptoms that appear in adults, children with GAD may have:
- a fear of making mistakes
- “what if” fears about situations far in the future
- a feeling that they’re to blame for any disaster, and their worry will keep tragedy from occurring
- a need for frequent reassurance and approval.
How the doctor or mental health professional determines if you have GAD (diagnosis)
Therapy, such as talking therapies
Your doctor should be able to explain what is available locally and which type of talking treatment such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is most suitable for you.
Psychoeducation (providing education)
Your doctor should give you information about your condition, suggest different ways to handle it, and discuss any complications which could occur.
It's also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual check up with your doctor.
Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.
Thanks to Janet Peters, registered psychologist, and Lisa Ducat, Like Minds, Like Mine mental health promoter, for reviewing this content. Last reviewed: September, 2014.