Generalised anxiety disorder and rules for living
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can feel like constant fear, stress, worry. GAD is like a heavy rucksack that we carry on our backs, tainting our everyday lives. With GAD we can find it hard to smile, to laugh, to see humour in things, and our enjoyment of life can be greatly reduced. GAD can also feel like a secret that we have to hide from others by avoiding them and places, or being very controlled in situations where we feel out of our comfort zone. We can also feel ashamed of who we are, depressed at how restricted our lives have become.
With GAD we can set ourselves rules to try and feel safer. We might, for example, park our car in a certain part of the supermarket carpark so that we don’t have to walk very far to the shop. We may stand in a corner at parties and at other social occasions, trying not to bring attention to ourselves. We may stay quiet rather than express an opinion at work, out of concern that we may start trembling. Over time such rules grow and our lives can become ever more restricted, GAD can just keep on growing.
In order to tackle GAD, it is important to begin looking at the rules we set ourselves for living. A therapist can help clients to explore not only the rules that govern their GAD, but also rules for living with a much longer history. Clients with GAD may have developed strong rules about who they should be, and what they need to be doing in their lives. These rules are likely to have been created during childhood and these rules can lead to self-criticism and anxiety, they can therefore underpin GAD. A good therapist will help a client to explore what might be their unhelpful rules for living, and will support the client in developing a more dynamic and engaged way of life that better suits the person they are today. Ditching GAD involves ditching unhelpful and self-critical rules. Shedding oneself of GAD also involves learning to relax in the moment, maybe by having less rules. Relaxing and letting go seem to be strong antidotes to GAD.
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