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Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms & Management

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

In the past 6 months, have you felt so worried and overwhelmed that you find it difficult to control? Have you found it hard to socialise, work, or concentrate on things because your worry seems to be taking over you? You may be experiencing generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and you aren’t alone.

5.9% of adults experience GAD within a given week in the UK and rates are higher between the ages of 45 and 54. Also, it has been found that men experience more severe symptoms of GAD than women. These facts and figures tell us that in such a difficult time when you find it hard to remember the last time you were not anxious or stressed, you are not alone and you are understood.

There are vast amounts of psychological research exploring GAD, but it is important to remember that theories and scientific explanations do not alter how you or anyone suffering with GAD feels. In this blog we will outline ways in which GAD can be presented and offer suggestions in management.


How can GAD be presented?

There are a range of symptoms for anxiety, people may experience one or more of these symptoms at any given time. GAD can affect an individual mentally as well as physically.

Some mind-related symptoms include:

  • restlessness,

  • a sense of dread,

  • feeling on edge,

  • difficulty concentrating,

  • and irritability.

Some physical symptoms include:

  • tiredness,

  • heart palpitations,

  • muscle tensions,

  • trembling or shaking,

  • excessive sweating,

  • headaches and insomnia.

Anxiety can cause insomnia or just fatigue. This may even still continue when you are getting the recommended amount of sleep nightly. But this fatigue can be caused by the mental energy that anxiety uses for overthinking or worrying, which doesn’t just exhaust you physically or mentally.

However, every individual may feel different levels of each symptom or not experience it all. This doesn’t make anyone less valid depending on the on the symptoms they experience.

For example, perfectionism can be a cause and a symptom of anxiety, this could lead to redo things over and over again until they are deemed perfect to their personal standard. Another example is depersonalization. This relates to feeling like you`re losing touch with reality, it is sometimes described as feeling like you are having a panic attack.

Another physical symptom of anxiety, this can be caused by anxiety or anxiety can be brought about by a skin irritation or condition. Many times, when this symptom occurs it`s because the individual is stressed or going through a major life event.

People can experience anxiety in many situations, and what causes anxiety for one person may be different to another. The same goes for symptoms. Just because you may experience different symptoms to someone else doesn’t make them any less valid. There are many ways to help with anxiety.


How can GAD symptom be managed?

1. Stretching routine

When you feel anxious and tense, it could be a good idea to focus on ways to relax the body. The mind and body are not separate as Descartes said. They affect each other and work together. For example, if I start to think about all of my deadlines and all of the work I have to do, my body tenses up, and I start to pace around the place in a panic. Likewise, if I begin my day with a stretching exercise, my body will feel relaxed and my mind will reciprocate that. Many studies have found that there is a reduction in anxiety and increased levels of vitality and mental well-being after completing stretching exercises. So, next time you feel stressed or wake up feeling tense, do a couple of stretches and see how you feel afterwards.

2. Mindfulness

Being mindful is to be aware of the feelings and senses in the present moment without judgement or interpretation. Living in such a fast-paced environment can lead us to feel like we are losing control of the present moment. Mindfulness helps to reconnect with the present. It has actually been found that people with higher mindfulness awareness experience the slowing down of the passage of time *insert joke about the Matrix here*. By focusing on the here and now, we are free from the worries of the future and regrets of the past. It allows you to just be you in that moment. Breathing, sensing and feeling without judgement. Mindfulness meditation also reduces both stress and anxiety levels significantly in those in highly stressful jobs and those with GAD.

3. Working out

Perhaps you have had a very difficult day; you’ve just finished work and your boss and colleagues have been stressing you left and right with nowhere to offload... well maybe you manage a couple of profanities under your breath in a toilet cubicle. Yet, you go home and still feel some weight on your shoulders. It might seem counterproductive, especially after a long day, but doing a quick little home workout or going for a jog can help offload that tension. A meta-analysis on the anxiety reducing effects of acute and chronic exercise, found that just 21 minutes of exercise is all that seems necessary to reduce state and trait anxiety. Exercising seems to improve symptoms of GAD such as fatigue, excessive worry and poor sleep quality so make sure you’re getting your 21 minutes in.

Written by, Rebecca, Nafeesah & Isla (3LB Team).

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