The Facts About GAD

When you wake up every morning, you feel sick to the very pit of your stomach.

Your appetite is dwindled, with even your favourite foods no longer attracting your attention.

When you stand you feel dizzy. Your head often feels heavy and your legs like jelly, barely holding you up.

You cry all the time and constantly feel as though you are in one of those haunted house attractions, waiting for an actor dressed as some grizzly creature to jump out at you from behind the next wall.

You are living on the edge but you aren’t any racing fast cars. This adrenaline is certainly not the same as when you’re queuing for the biggest roller coaster at Alton Towers either. It’s always there. And you don’t really know why.

This is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD.

GAD is a physiological disorder that is often diagnosed in people who suffer from excessive or unreasonable anxiety within everyday life. This level of ‘extreme worry’ can be extremely debilitating and disruptive to an individual’s life.

Everybody at one stage in their lives will suffer from Anxiety about certain aspects of their life. This can include worries about school or a job, a relationship, and finances. But when that worry consumes a person to the point of causing them ill health and prevents them from living a healthy, happy life, it is often Generalised Anxiety Disorder that is orchestrating it.

You may just think you are ill or stressed out.

When I was diagnosed with GAD a few years back I just thought I had the flu but anxiety can make you feel like you are unwell.

So I thought some bite-size information on GAD might help a few people looking for information.

 So, what causes GAD?

 Abnormal neurotransmitter levels within our brain are the reason for many anxiety disorders. They cause the brain to behave inappropriately as they control the nervous system. Neurotransmitters affect our mood, our concentration as well as our sleep and weight, and when their levels are unbalanced, they can cause the number of anxiety-related symptoms.

When it all boils down to it, our Brain Chemistry is the prime reason for Anxiety and Stress-related illness.

But of course, Anxiety can be triggered or caused by a number of different factors. These can include:

Trauma

Stress

Side effects of certain medications

Genetics

Medical Conditions (This is why you should always have your GP diagnose Anxiety rather than assume that is what you have, just to make sure you are not suffering from a medical illness)

What are the symptoms of GAD?

There are a number of mental symptoms, which will lead to the diagnosis of GAD.

These, of course, will include excessive worry and anxious thoughts.

But many people find themselves confused by the other symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Here I’ll explain the science behind the most common GAD symptoms.

Headaches

An anxiety headache will most likely be caused by muscle tension. We have a number of different muscles not only in our head but our neck that we tense when anxious or under stress. This muscle tension can lead to muscle fatigue and aches. Your headache may also be caused by dehydration, as when we are suffering from anxiety, we tend to forget to stay hydrated and healthy.

High levels of stress and anxiety can also cause migraines. Remember to take the time to look after your health and keep hydrated! You can also use techniques such as mindfulness meditation to relax, relieving headaches caused by tension and stress.

Nausea/Digestive Upsets (includes Acid Reflux, IBS, etc)

High-stress biology will cause the production of extra stomach acid as well as tension within the stomach muscles, which can throw your digestive system out of check and balance.

You can deal with this by eating little and often. You could also try taking a probiotic to maintain healthy bacteria within your digestive system.

Dizziness and Shaking

These symptoms are often caused by hyperventilation. People with anxiety will commonly over breath which means they will take into much oxygen. This is also common with panic attacks. The best way to deal with this is to take deep, slow breaths in through the nose and slowly breathe out through pursed lips as though you are blowing a dandelion. This will regulate your breaths and help you to calm down, therefore stopping you over-breathing.

Depersonalization

This is often described as being in a dream-like state. People with GAD will often feel detached from their own thoughts and wonder if they are going insane. This is because the anxiety is causing an erratic nervous system. Using breathing techniques and grounding (I’ll do a blog post all about this) will really help you to relax and have a calmer mindset.

Easily tired/Insomnia

With anxiety, our brain is always on high alert and acts inappropriately to every day worries. The best way to describe it is by watching Horror films constantly. Your brain and nerves are on edge like some crazed, masked man called Mike Myers are going to jump out and chase you down the street. Because of this, people will anxiety disorders like GAD will feel emotionally exhausted. They may also find it hard to keep a regular sleep pattern or ‘wind down’, in turn leading to Insomnia.

Check my blog post on Insomnia to learn more about this and how to better deal with sleep disorders.

Other symptoms of GAD can include;

General Tension

Difficulty concentrating

Irritability

Being easily startled.

These are all caused by high-stress biology.

If you or someone you know is suffering from GAD, share this post and encourage them to see their GP for a general health check and a proper diagnosis. This will also allow you to access various services, which could help you to deal with the disorder.

I really hope this blog post has helped anyone looking for more information and insight on GAD or anxiety in general.

Misconceptions of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Anxiety is kind of like that friend who you know has your best interests but is actually REALLY clingy and slightly obsessive

Anxiety is a natural emotional response to anything that our brain deems as being dangerous. Referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response, it was most useful back in the stone ages to prevent yourself from becoming lunch for a hungry creature double your size.

Hormones, such as adrenaline, would prepare you physically to fight the creature or do a runner! In turn, this would make you feel more alert and ready your muscles for a WWE style smackdown or a Mo Farah run, which would hopefully stop you from becoming a human kebab!

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry as much about creatures trying to feast upon us these days.

But these reactions to potentially dangerous situations are still prevalent and sometimes for good reasons. Without anxiety, we would literally all live our lives like members of the Jack Ass team. As an emotion, it allows us to approach situations with a levelheaded outlook.

‘Hey, Bob, should I dangle my legs off this really tall cliff for the lol’s?’  

‘Hmm, not too sure about that Jim…Sounds dangerous to me’  

‘What’s the worst that could happen?’  

‘Well, you could slip and fall down the cliff to your death Jim’  

‘Yeah, that’s true Bob, better not try that then’

(In this situation, Bob is anxiety)

Anxiety will cause feelings of unease and fearfulness in many life situations from school exams and job interviews to illnesses or breakups. But for many people, these feelings will only be present during a small and reasonable length of time. These are normal emotional reactions that every person will and should feel.

An anxiety disorder refers to an exaggerated and prolonged response that affects an individual’s everyday life. It’s often hard for people to differentiate between suffering from an anxiety disorder or just undergoing a normal anxiety response because anxiety is such a common emotion.

But the two are very different.

There are many misconceptions about anxiety disorders and I’m going to talk about a few of the most common.

Only weak people get anxiety disorders.

You can be the strongest person in the world and still be struck down with an anxiety disorder. In all fairness, it’s usually the strongest and most confident people who suffer from anxiety disorders because they hide their emotions away. It’s a bit like kids films where someone would keep putting stuff under their bed and pretending it wasn’t there until the bed touched the bedroom ceiling.

People who suffer from mental health problems are often ashamed. Society has to lead us to believe we have to put a smile on our faces all the time and pretend to be something we are not. This leads to high levels of stress, which will eventually lead to anxiety disorders.

At this point, people are often left confused. ‘Oh, I never knew so and so was having such a hard time! I thought they were really strong’.

People deal with situations in very different ways. We don’t always know people’s stories or what their lives are truly like. Try not to judge.

Only people with anxiety disorders have panic attacks  

Panic attacks are a common symptom of high anxiety but are not always prominent with anxiety disorders. Specifically, anxiety disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder are more commonly diagnosed due to other less obvious symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, and obsessive thoughts.

Panic attacks are a physical reaction to anxiety and regular panic attacks will usually lead to a diagnosis of Panic Disorder (an anxiety disorder which consists of excessive panic attacks). But as stated, they are not always a symptom of an anxiety disorder and a panic attack can happen with or without mental health problems being present (such as the first time someone performs on a stage).

Anxiety Disorders can only be treated with medication

Medication should always be a last resort when it comes to anxiety but you should always decide what works best for you. In the short term, anti-anxiety medication can help you to obtain a better mindset in order to use other techniques.

However, there are lots of alternative techniques that can be used to get on top of an anxiety disorder and medication will often have it’s own side effects which should always be discussed in length with your GP.

Medication free treatments include:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

Mindfulness Meditation  

Counseling  

Breathing Techniques  

and Hypnosis (and others)

You should always fight anxiety!

Anxiety isn’t something you should fight against, but rather work alongside to control. When you fight anxiety, it often gets worse. Anxiety thinks it’s doing you a favour because, after all, it’s protecting you from ‘harm’. Specific treatments such as exposure therapy will allow you to face your fears a little every day and stay on top of your anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are not easy to deal with. They often make you feel like you’re a prisoner to your own mind but getting the right help and support can allow you to do all the things you love and not feel as though your anxiety disorder defines you. You should never feel alone as 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives.

Keep strong!

Georgia OX

Mind http://www.mind.org.uk

Mood Juice http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/anxiety.asp