Print Posted on 24/08/2017 in My Blog

Finding help here for anxiety & generalised anxiety disorder (gad)

Finding help here for anxiety & generalised anxiety disorder (gad)

GAD is characterized by generalized feelings of anxiety which are not linked to any situation or object, or any realistic threat or danger.  The person is jumpy, intense, cannot concentrate or make decisions, does not sleep well, loses appetite and may experience physical symptoms. There may be extreme anxiety attacks or panic attacks which are accompanied by feelings of inescapable danger, exhaustion and disorientation. They may last for minutes, hours or even days. Sometimes these feelings are referred to as ‘free floating’ anxiety.

Fear and anxiety is not the same thing. In fear, there is some clearly defined object or person that the person is afraid of, which creates the feeling of being in danger. Anxiety is a more general feeling of the expectation of danger, and it can take a wide variety of forms. The reaction is identical in fear and anxiety. The sympathetic nervous system jumps into action, creating fluttering impulses, a quickened heartbeat, paleness and breathlessness. This is to prepare the body for action to cope with the perceived danger, the fight or flight syndrome.

GAD can last for months and in order for it to be diagnosed according to the DSM IV, the person must have spent a minimum of 6 months, with worry and excessive anxiety shown daily. One of the bigger problems with GAD is that many people feel like this some days, especially if life has become more stressful. The big difference between a stressed-out person and a GAD sufferer is that the person is unable to relax at all over a long period and it affects their decisions, their work and home life.  One of the dilemmas facing the diagnosis of this disorder is that it is a matter of degree and that is subject to opinion. Many doctors believe that there is only a very thin line between panic, OCD or GAD and normality.  It is an option to a therapist to treat when the anxiety makes changes to normal life function regardless of how short a time that may be.

Psychological Symptoms

  • restlessness
  • a sense of dread
  • feeling constantly 'on edge'
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • being easily distracted

Physical Symptoms

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness and tiredness
  • pins and needles
  • irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • muscle aches and tension
  • dry mouth
  • excessive sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach ache
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urinating
  • painful or missed periods
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)

Being anxious is a normal activity and everyone experiences anxiety many times a day.  For example, it is normal to feel anxious when meeting someone new or before a job interview.

Anxiety is also adaptive. It is a system in the body that helps deal with real danger for example, it gives allows the ability to jump out of the way of a speeding car or to perform at something at our optimum best.  For example, it can motivate to prepare for a big exam or public speech.

When anxiety is experienced, the body's fight-flight-freeze response (also sometimes called the (adrenaline response) is triggered. This prepares the body to defend itself either by running or preparing to fight.  

Our body's natural alarm system (the fight-flight-freeze response) can be activated when there is a real danger, such as coming across a vicious dog when hiking in the woods. In this case, you may run …or freeze (stay still until the dog passes), or fight (e.g., shout and wave your arms to appear big and scary – not a great idea if you are frightened of dogs).
This response is controlled by the amygdala which is an almond shaped mass located deep within the temporal lobe of the brain.  It is a limbic system structure that is involved in many emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to eating, sex and survival.  It is involved in the processing of emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure. It is also responsible for determining what memories are stored and where the memories are stored in the brain.  It is thought that this determination is based on how huge an emotional response an event invokes. 

So, the functions are;

  • Arousal
  • Autonomic Responses Associated with Fear
  • Emotional Responses
  • Hormonal Secretions
  • Memory

But this response can also be triggered when something simply feels dangerous but really is not, such as being interviewed for a job.  In this case you may feel wired, on edge or uncomfortable.  They may want to snap at people (fight) or have a hard time thinking clearly (freeze).  These feelings, or individual responses to the environment, can become overwhelming enough that make the individual want to avoid doing the interview (flight).  Many people stop doing things or going places that make them feel anxious.

Effects on Behaviour

The anxious person changes the way they behave to get themselves through the day.  Normal routines will be disrupted by avoidance or safety behaviours and the day will become less efficient and possibly less organised or compensatory over organising.  People become over or under active or sometimes both but at different times.

Over Activity

This tends to happen to mask the fear of a total collapse and things get completely on top of the client.  They rush around trying to do too much and too many things.  The inability to relax comes from the fear of collapse.  Racing around may be the only avoidance behaviour so they tend to be tense and exhausted at the same time.

Arousal and Performance

Arousal is a state of being alert, physically and mentally and of being incited to action. Various body systems and hormones are involved and contribute to alertness and readiness to move.  Some signs of arousal are increased heart rate and blood pressure and quicker responses.  Arousal allows people to seek the things they require to live and some people to seek beyond what they require to gain success and skills.  People have different levels of arousal and therefore seek different activities and set different goals.
The arousal level can be thought of as how much capacity you have available to work with and what the optimum level of arousal is for maximum performance.  A certain amount of arousal can be a motivator toward change. There are optimal levels of arousal for every task:

  1. Lower for more difficult or intellectually (cognitive) tasks.
  2. Higher for tasks requiring endurance and persistence.

Once an individual becomes anxious seriously enough for diagnosis it may well have had causes far distant in the past so the present problem of anxiety appears to be without a cause.  The suggestion is that the adaptation to the level of arousal has become a habit.  If an individual gets into the routine of worrying and expecting difficulties it can become the habit to avoid those situations that is expected to be difficult.  The body gets into the practice of being tense and reacting in anxious ways to all kinds of situations and may also generalise to similar situations.
Therapy is to break those habits and replace them with better ones and to sort out what the causes of the habits were so as not to be re-fuelled.  With long term stress/anxiety it does not really matter what the stressors are, all produce the same effects and response.

Anxiety, although necessary to all for normal function, when it gets out of hand we need help.  This is the place to find your perfect solution with one of the professional therapists on this site.

Learn More:

Anxiety Disorders

Find Members who Specialise in treating Anxiety Disorders

Contact This Member

Join Our Newsletter - Today