Do you worry about the weather when you get up in the morning?
Do you worry about the presentation you need to give at work, how your children are coping at school, whether your partner’s cough is getting worse, and what you’re going to cook for dinner?
We all have little worries.
But, if you’re worrying constantly and it’s interfering in your life you might have an anxiety disorder.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
In a nutshell, GAD is constant, uncontrollable worrying. Sufferers worry about all sorts of things, from exams to health, finances, relationships and work. Just like everyone else. But, the difference is that people with GAD spend most days worried, and have done for more than six months. This worrying impacts their life and makes day-to-day activities difficult.
Someone with GAD might not want to drive because they’re worried they’ll run out of petrol. They might not want to send their children to daycare in case they catch a cold. Everything from washing the dishes to paying bills and going to work has the potential to make them anxious, even when there’s no real reason to worry.
Who suffers from GAD?
Nearly six percent of Australians will experience GAD at some point in their life. The condition affects people of all ages and is more common in women.
How do I know if my worrying is normal?
Everyone worries at some point in time; it’s a normal part of life. It’s when this worrying starts to take over your life that it becomes a problem.
People with GAD spend most of their time anxious or worried. They worry even when there is nothing to worry about. Their worrying is out of their control, and it’s impacting their ability to live.
Further, people with GAD often:
- Find it hard to relax
- Tire easily
- Have problems sleeping
- Tense their muscles, causing their back or jaw to ache
- Find it hard to concentrate
- Have a short-temper
Sometimes people with GAD also have existing mental health issues, such as depression, social phobia and panic disorder.
Teenagers and GAD
Children and teenagers also have worries and are just as likely to suffer from GAD as their parents. A teenager might be worried about doing well at school, or in their chosen sport, being on time, or being caught in a natural disaster like a flood or a bushfire.
These worries are real, and should be taken seriously. If you’re concerned about your child, encourage them to seek help. Signs to look out for include:
- A lack of confidence.
- Constantly seeking reassurance.
- Needing the approval of others.
- Re-doing tasks, including homework, until their perfect.
Where do I go for help?
GAD is treatable, so if you’re concerned you, or someone you know, might be suffering from the condition, seek professional help. Your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist will be able to assess your symptoms, and make sure you receive the help you need.
GAD is normally treated with psychological therapies, but if the condition is severe medication may be used.
You might also want to take steps to help reduce your anxiety, such as:
- Going on a health kick. Make sure you’re eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation. Getting yourself fighting fit can help you shake off your worries.
- Learning to chill. Take up meditation, go for a long walk, learn some breathing and muscle relaxation exercises. Take time out to relax, and learn some strategies to turn the heat down when you feel yourself getting stressed.
- Allocating half an hour a day to worry. Throughout the day, write your worries down. Then, when your worry time arrives refer to your list and once your times up banish your worries until your next worry time.
- Cutting yourself some slack. Keep your expectations realistic, and focus on your successes rather than your shortcomings.
- Taking small steps. Set yourself small goals each day, like taking a walk, getting eight hours sleep, or eating three healthy meals.
- Thinking about what triggers your anxiety, and how you can combat it. For example, you might feel your stress levels rise when you step into the office, or when you’re going through the check-out at the shops, or maybe when your mother-in-law calls. If you can pinpoint a trigger, you might be able to bring your stress levels down by taking a deep breath, or using a positive statement, or reassuring yourself by thinking about past successes.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GAD:
- beyondblue: provides information on anxiety
- Lifeline: can assist with crisis support, contact 13 11 14
- SANE: can assist with information and has a help hotline to call 1800 18 7263
What causes your worries?