Generalised anxiety disorder is characterised by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday, often mundane, things.
People with the disorder, which is also referred to as GAD, experience exaggerated worry and tension, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern.
They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. 25% of those who see a doctor for symptoms related to a psychological problem have GAD, and it can result in a chronic, low-level of depression which manifests itself as pessimism, and a struggle to enjoy things.
What people with GAD tend to do is think ahead excessively. They will try to anticipate everything that could go wrong, and while that worked well for our ancestors, all it will do nowadays is drive you crazy.
Imagine a job interview for a GAD sufferer; anticipating everything the employer may ask, worrying if they will be able to answer it. Combine it with SAD and the person will be worried about feeling embarrassed if they can’t respond. Funnily enough, research shows that 85% of the things people worry about have either a neutral or positive outcome.
Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety for GAD sufferers. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realise that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
GAD affects millions of adults in the UK population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.
The disorder comes on gradually and can continue across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role in triggering GAD.
If you have a tendency to worry, and you have always been that way, it is likely you have a genetic predisposition to doing so. Accepting this means you will be better able to deal with it.
When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially. Although they may avoid some situations because they have the disorder, some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe.
The need for certainty and control
The most significant belief behind worrying is that you have the power to control everything in your life. Unfortunately, you don’t. Alongside this, the hardest truth for GAD sufferers to accept is that nothing in life is certain. “I know it’s unlikely, but I could be the one” is a phase that a GAD sufferer is likely to say.
This is true, to a degree. But many things in life are uncertain. As a little exercise, try making note of the areas in life you currently accept uncertainty and lack of control. If you drive, you accept uncertainty when you set off. Following on from this, are you associating uncertainty with a negative outcome? Do you think anything unknown that could happen will be negative? If you are, why? As I highlighted above, 85% of the things people worry about have a positive outcome.
Another exercise to get you started: If you had to place a bet on the chances of something happening, how much would you place on it?
Hopefully these little exercises can help you get started on your recovery with GAD. Keep in mind that a thought is a thought. Reality is not the same thing, and realise that your worry is simply biased thinking: you are assuming a negative outcome from something uncertain, when we already know the chances of the outcome being negative is minor.
CBT can be a great method to use to recover from GAD.
Dr. Robert Leahy – Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You, Second Edition