Anxiety is an emotion that all human beings experience at times. Most people become anxious or nervous when they are faced with stressful situations; such as problems at home or at work, before taking exams, when faced with an important decision, or when a love one is in actual danger. It may be accompanied by several physical symptoms, most of which are related to the head, heart, and lungs; and the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
The occasional experience of anxiety is perfectly normal; we all experience it at various points in our lives. However, people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more or less constant and often affect their daily lives.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about many situations and issues in your life. People who are suffering from GAD experience anxiety most days, and they often find it hard to relax. GAD may cause both psychological/emotional and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling irritable or worried, trouble concentrating, and sleep disturbances.
There are a number of things that may cause or trigger anxiety, but these are some of the most common:
- Stress at work or school
- Stress in a personal relationship, such as family, marriage, or friendship
- Financial strain
- Stress from an emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, criminal victimization, physical abuse, or sexual abuse
- Stress and symptoms from a serious medical illness
- Side effects of medication
- Intoxication with an illicit drug, such as cocaine or amphetamines
- Drug withdrawal
- Lack of oxygen
Symptoms may vary from one person to another, and may depend on the severity of the disorder. The most common cases manifest these symptoms:
Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense
- Anticipating the worst
- Hyper-vigilance (watching for signs of danger when none is present)
- Feeling as if one’s mind has gone blank
- Uncontrolled flashbacks of stressful events
- Feeling detached from the world
- Sleep disturbances
- Panic episodes
- Increased heart rate
- Intestinal upset
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Tremors and twitches
- Muscle tension
- Hot flashes or chills
Treatment and Prevention
To prevent anxiety attacks, you must be able to manage both the emotional and physical components of anxiety disorder.
Recognize your worries- When you experience anxiety, write them down in a journal, mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. This is a good way to channel your negative thoughts.
- Create an anxiety worry period – Choose one or two 10-minute “worry periods” each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on your negative thoughts without trying to correct or prevent them. The rest of the day, however, you should be anxiety-free. When anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and deal with them during your worry period.
- Accept uncertainty – Worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make things any better; it only prevents you from enjoying your life. Learn to accept uncertainty and don’t insist on immediate solutions to life’s problems. You don’t own all the problems of the world.
- Relaxation and deep breathing – Relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms, increasing feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
- Healthy eating habits – Never skip breakfast, and ensure that you eat at least three times a day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can add to feelings of anxiety.
- Limit alcohol intake – An excess of alcohol doesn’t “drown your sorrows;” in fact, it may lead to increased anxiety.
- Exercise regularly – Exercise is an excellent, natural stress-buster and anxiety-reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
- Get enough sleep – A lack of sleep can aggravate anxious thoughts and feelings. Try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.