Generalised anxiety

Do you… ?

  • Worry so much that it affects your daily life, including your job and social life?
  • Find your worries are stressful and upsetting?
  • Worry about all sorts of things and have a tendency to think the worst?
  • Find that your worrying is uncontrollable?

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by feelings of anxiety (feeling fearful, worried and tense) on most days for at least 6 months. People with GAD find it difficult to control worry on every day matters (including work performance, money and family problems) and at times on things that feel quite minor. Symptoms include:

  • restlessness
  • a sense of dread
  • feeling constantly “on edge”
  • difficulty concentrating or your mind going blank
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • being easily distracted
  • muscle tension
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety e.g. 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, frequent urinating, difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia).

Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (seeing your family and friends). You may also find going to work difficult and stressful and may take time off sick. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and lower your self-esteem and mood.

How common is it?

GAD affects approximately 1 in 20 adults in Britain. Slightly more women are affected than men and the condition is most common in people in their 20s.

What can I do about it?

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has recommended two main treatments for GAD; these are psychological therapy (Guided Self Help and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and medication. Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from one of these types of treatment or a combination of the two.

Guided Self-Help options

We offer a number of guided self help interventions for managing GAD. These include:

  • The Feeling Good Group where you can learn strategies for managing anxiety
  • Guided self help where a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner will guide you through techniques to help manage anxiety
  • Recommended Self Help Books and Resources: some people find that reading about anxiety can help them deal with their condition. There are many books based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These may help you understand your psychological problems better and learn ways to overcome them by changing your behaviour.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Individual CBT for GAD specifically involves identifying worrying thoughts and will look at the way in which you manage uncertainty. Treatment can be offered in one-to-one sessions or in a group.

If you would like to know more about Guided Self Help or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, please contact us.

How Can I Help Myself?

Useful self help strategies for managing anxiety include:

Exercise: regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, will help you combat stress and release tension. It also encourages your brain to release the chemical serotonin, which can improve your mood. Aim to do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Moderate exercise should make you feel slightly out of breath and tired. Going for a brisk walk is a good example.

Relaxation: as well as getting regular exercise, learning how to relax is important. You may find relaxation and breathing exercises helpful, or you may prefer activities such as yoga or pilates to help you unwind.

Diet: changing your diet may help ease your symptoms. Too much caffeine can make you more anxious than normal. This is because caffeine can disrupt your sleep and also speed up your heartbeat. If you are tired, you are less likely to be able to control your anxious feelings.

Smoking and drinking: smoking and alcohol have been shown to make feelings of anxiety worse. Drink alcohol in moderation and, if you smoke, try to give up. The NHS provides free support to people who would like to stop smoking.

Support groups for anxiety: these are also a good way to meet other people with similar experiences. Support groups often involve face-to-face meetings where you can talk about your difficulties and problems with other people. Many support groups also provide support and guidance over the phone or in writing. Ask your GP about local support groups for anxiety in your area or look up online emotional support services near you.

Acknowledgement of references