Anxiety disorders are characterised by an excessive fear, worry and anxiety in relation to a future threat. As a result, individuals demonstrate disturbances to their behaviour and day-to-day functioning.
A common symptom of many anxiety disorders is panic attacks, which reflect which reflect a type fear response. Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and obsessive-complusive disorder (OCD), as well as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.
GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include:
– Feeling restless or worried
– Having trouble concentrating or sleeping
– Dizziness or heart palpitations
What causes GAD?
The exact cause of GAD isn’t fully understood, although it’s likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested that these may include:
– Overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
– An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
– The genes you inherit from your parents – you’re estimated to be 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
– Having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
– Having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
– Having a history of drug or alcohol misuse
How GAD is treated
GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms. These include:
– Psychological therapies – you can get psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS. You don’t need a referral from your GP. You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service
– Find a psychological therapies service in your area.
– Medication such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as:
– Going on a self-help course
– Exercising regularly
– Stopping smoking
– Cutting down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink
– Trying one of the mental health apps and tools in the NHS library
With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels. However, some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.