Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the UK and the main symptom of several, different conditions, such as panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and of course generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
GAD affects approximately 5% of the UK population and it is slightly more common in women.
The exact cause of GAD is not fully known and understood; what we do know though, is that a combination of several factors – including genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stresses – plays a role and contributes to its development.
GAD is not transitory and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms; the pathological anxiety is an abnormal, enduring reaction that interferes with the ability of people to focus on specific problems or situations. Therefore it’s an impairment to the normal functioning in daily life.
To be more specific, the diagnostic criteria for GAD as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 (2013), published by the American Psychiatric Association includes:
– Feelings of excessive anxiety and worry, lasting on and off for at least six months, about a number of events or activities such as pressures at work or school.
– The individual finds it difficult to control and cope with the worry.
– The anxiety and worry are associated with three or more of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present more than not for the past six months):
Note: Only one item is required in children.
- restlessness or feeling on edge
- being easily fatigued
- finding it difficult to concentrate or losing thought
- muscle tension.
- sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep or a restless sleep).
– The worry or physical symptoms causing clinically significant distress or impairment in day to day/social activities.
– The problem is not linked to the physiological effects of a substance (drug abuse, medication) or another medical condition, for example hyperthyroidism.
– The symptoms are not linked to another mental disorder.
It is possible to treat GAD with psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy will help you to find the roots of the disorder and to understand its expression better; your awareness will be raised in order to change what is dysfunctional and to find a better and healthier way forward. You will be able to close any unfinished business and to react to daily events and situations without anxiety.