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Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Q: What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)? What differentiates it from excessive worrying?

 It is normal for everyone to face stress and anxiety in daily life, and to worry excessively in certain circumstances. However, if you experience excessive and persistent physical and/or psychological symptoms associated with anxiety that is not restricted to any particular event or circumstance, and if the anxiety interferes with day-to-day activities and relationships, you may be suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

GAD

 

Q: What are the symptoms of GAD? How do I know when I need to seek help?

Psychological symptoms of GAD like excessive worrying, concentration difficulties, sleep disturbance, nervousness and apprehension can cause physical symptoms to occur.

Common physical symptoms of GAD include increased muscle tension, trembling, lightheadedness, dry mouth and sweating. Other physical symptoms could include breathing difficulties, palpitations, nausea or abdominal stress. GAD has also been known to aggravate physical problems like hypertension and ischaemic heart disease as it causes further stress on the already burdened cardiovascular system.

It is advisable to seek help as early as the symptoms are identified. A diagnosis needs to be made by a psychiatrist to ensure that there are no underlying medical conditions causing the symptoms, and to assess if there are other comorbid conditions that need to be treated. Early intervention can bring about a better prognosis.

Q: What are some of the treatment methods for GAD?

As GAD is considered a chronic illness, treatment options are generally for the long-term. These could include:

1. Medications such as anti-depressants to help control anxiety — such medications have minimal side effects even with regular use. Sometimes, benzodiazepines can be used for short periods.

2. Non-medication treatment options include cognitive methods, where patients are taught about the symptoms and bodily responses related to anxiety, and how to modify thinking errors. Behavioural methods may also be used, in which patients are exposed to possible triggers and taught relaxation techniques. Lifestyle changes could also help GAD patients, as excessive stress can trigger or worsen GAD.

Q: How will my life be affected if I have GAD, but do not seek treatment?

Often, people with milder forms of GAD do not seek treatment. This can sometimes lead to serious consequences: their level of functioning may be reduced, they may suffer from some physical problems/illness, miss work frequently and visit the doctor often. If GAD is untreated, it may also lead to other mental illnesses like depression and abuse of illicit substances. It can affect the ability of the individual to progress in their career and in maintaining relationships.

Often, people with milder forms of GAD do not seek treatment. This can sometimes lead to serious consequences: their level of functioning may be reduced, they may suffer from some physical problems/illness, miss work frequently and visit the doctor often. If GAD is untreated, it may also lead to other mental illnesses like depression and abuse of illicit substances. It can affect the ability of the individual to progress in their career and in maintaining relationships.

Q: What are some tips that can help me manage anxiety?

1. Breathe deeply

 When you feel anxious, your heart tends to beat faster and you breathe faster or hyperventilate. This reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain, which in turn causes you to feel light-headed or dizzy and results in heightened anxiety. Try breathing deeply. Make a conscious effort to draw deep breaths and blow them out slowly. This can help to reverse the physical symptoms and calm you down.

2. Engage your other senses

 Engaging your senses will help you to focus on something else and take your mind off the trigger of your anxiety attack. You could look at a photo of something or someone you love, hum your favourite tune, hold an object that comforts you (a memento or even a stuffed animal), or stretch your arms and legs.

3. Talk to a friend

Sharing your feelings or concerns with a friend or family member who is a good listener can help you feel more relaxed. This will enable you to deal with the anxiety that you are facing.

It is normal for everyone to face stress and anxiety in daily life, and to worry excessively in certain circumstances. However, if you experience excessive and persistent physical and/or psychological symptoms associated with anxiety that is not restricted to any particular event or circumstance, and if the anxiety interferes with day-to-day activities and relationships, you may be suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

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