General anxiety disorder, – GAD – describes a persistent feeling of unease when you struggle to control your fears in daily life.
Most people admit to worry and nerves before an exam, interview or presentation. Sadly, according to St. Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin, anxiety disorders are on the increase in Ireland and Britain, along with depression. The stress levels caused are comparable to having cancer or heart disease!
Celebrities are helping break taboos by talking about about their own struggles with anxiety. Emma Stone has spoken out and Niall Breslin revealed his experiences to a surprisingly supportive public response.
Many people soldier on alone and only a fraction of people with GAD get help. When you’re in the middle of it, the fears seem real and unsurmountable. Thinking is clouded and you may even fear being labelled insane. Even mild anxiety erodes confidence, disrupts sleep and impacts whole families.
You may be well aware that your fears are irrational but the seat of anxiety in the brain is on another loop, connected to our familiar ‘Fight or Flight’ response.
Do you see the cup as half-empty all the time?
Classic examples of anxiety are of dread answering the phone and fearing it’ll be bad news. Others assume the worst anytime the boss wants a word, afraid they’ve done something wrong or failed to live up to expectations.
One of the aspects I notice with women who suffer anxiety is overestimating the problem or the dangers. They totally underestimate their ability to cope, forgetting quickly how well they managed in the past. Yet, you’d never suspect their churning anxiety beneath the calm exterior. The amount of energy used in concealing anxiety is enormous – and costly, in physical health terms.
According to the HSE these are signs of an anxiety disorder.
Worry affects your daily life, at home at work, socially.
Your worries are distressing.
You worry about all kinds of stuff, and always think the worst.
Your worry is uncontrollable.
You have felt anxious nearly every day, for 6 months.
While anxiety may be present from a young age , and in many cases travels down the generations, it can be sparked by life changes. Let’s face it, life changes all the time and we don’t always welcome change. Some are harder to cope with – death, job loss, infertility, infidelity, divorce, illness. Surprisingly, planned, happy change is also stressful – marriage,a baby, new house, job promotion take a toll on equilibrium and take some adjusting to.
And, more often than not, it’s the high-functioning perfectionist that’s most susceptible. It’s not a sign of feeble-mindedness or weakness of character. Usually it’s the opposite – it’s the generous, giving, go-to person that everybody loves who gets overwhelmed.
Sometimes I find it heartbreaking that people who typically put everybody else’s needs before their own don’t realize how close help is.
In my work I use research-based mindfulness therapy, and mindfulness skills training, along with hypnotherapy. I help folk re-frame their thinking patterns around worry and anxiety. Cognitive restructuring sounds more complicated than it is in reality. Simply put, it challenges the accuracy of anxious thoughts. Client learn that ‘crystal gazing’ or mind reading is rarely accurate, or useful! They discover how protect themselves from other people’s judging, to switch off worry thoughts, practice simple ways to enjoying life by mindfulness and visualization. With that comes rapid improvements in sleep, eating habits, motivation and increased well-being, mental clarity and humour.
A helpful realization is that you don’t have to suffer in silence and you can take control of your worries rather than having them control you.