What is generalised anxiety disorder? (GAD)

If you suffer from any kind of anxiety, I’m sure you will understand when I say, “anxiety is the devil”.

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder and is defined as a constant state of high anxiety, worry and irrational thinking. We can all have moments or a few days of experiencing this, but GAD usually lasts for prolonged periods of time (experiencing anxiety for generally more days than not, for 6 months or more). The anxiety will range from mild (you may still be able to go to work or go out socially) to being severely debilitated by it (be unable to do much at all). It is common to go up and down the scale and the level of anxiety may vary between the two ends.

The anxiety is often about everyday things such as work, school, money or relationships and the intensity of the anxiety can be excessive in comparison to the worry or issue. The sufferer may recognise that the anxiety is excessive but will feel that they cannot control or stop it.

It is one thing to have a fear of a certain thing or a phobia that causes anxiety when you encounter it. For example, when you have a phobia of spiders and see something scuttling across the floor from the corner of your eye…what was that? A tarantula? Your heart pounds, you begin to sweat, you get that feeling flowing through your veins, you get hot and maybe start to shake a little. With GAD it is not a specific reason and these physical reactions can be there constantly to some extent and, the most frustrating part, as mentioned, for no specific reason (such as a spider).

You know that feeling when you miss a step on the stairs and for a split second you have that awful fear that you are about to tumble to your death? (maybe slightly dramatic, but that’s how it feels) well, imagine pausing that split second in time and living with that horrible gut feeling of dread and panic all the time.

With GAD your mind never stops going over and over all these thoughts, you see the negative in every situation – past, present or future. You are restless, agitated and exhausted from your brain working overtime.

With any kind of anxiety, it can start to have a big effect on your work, personal life, self-esteem and your whole life in general. You may stop going anywhere in case something bad happens, or stop planning fun things to do, again, in case something bad happens. By trying to protect yourself from these “bad things” your world can become very small and not a nice place to be in.

You may ask, how can anyone help me if I don’t know what the problem is? How will I be able to tell someone what is wrong with me when I don’t know myself? How are they going to fix something that isn’t there? The problem is too big, no one can help me with all of this….

You see, a huge part of anxiety is about perspective – how you see yourself, the world, your life and problems. Your perspective plays a massive part in how you handle and react to situations and how you see future events playing out. Your thoughts influence your behaviour and reactions.

Counselling can help you to get some of these worries off your chest. Help you challenge the negative thoughts you are having and rationalise them. By doing this you have a better chance at changing your perspective of your life and the world around you and in turn, reduce the anxiety you are experiencing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL5
Written by Jennifer Jowles, MBACP (Accred), IAPT CfD, Dip Couns, BSc Psychology
Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL5

Jennifer is a fully qualified and registered person-centred counsellor with experience in a variety of issues and specialising in grief and bereavement. She is passionate that everyone has the ability to change how past experiences/emotions affect their present behaviour and reach their full potential as an individual through personal awareness.

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