General anxiety disorder (GAD)

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that affects most people at different points in their lives. For some people, it can be a low-level background feeling of unease, while for others it can be so severe that it significantly impacts their lives.

Anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of fear, apprehension, unease, and worry. It usually occurs in response to a perceived threat or danger and is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, difficulty concentrating, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. While some level of anxiety can be beneficial—it helps us stay alert and prepared for potential danger—too much can lead to an inability to cope with everyday situations.

What are the different types of anxiety?

 

There are several different types of anxiety disorders that people may experience on a regular basis. The main types of anxiety include:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder (panic attacks)
  • Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
  • Asthma
  • Health anxiety
  • Phobeas

While the symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the type of anxiety are experiencing, many people experience similar symptoms such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability or restlessness, fatigue or exhaustion, muscle tension or aches/pains.

The impact that these disorders have on an individual’s life can range from mild to severe; someone may only experience occasional bouts of extreme panic while another person could find themselves unable to leave the house due to debilitating fear and worry about social situations.

 

How anxiety makes you feel

 

Anxiety is often discribed as a feeling of intense apprehension, fear or worry about something with an uncertain outcome. It can cause both mental and physical symptoms, and make it hard to cope with everyday situations. Physical symptoms include:

  • A tightness in the chest, stomach or throat
  • Hyperventilating (rapid breathing)
  • Restlessness
  • Pins and needles
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Nausea (sickness)

Mental symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Reduced ability to think clearly
  • Problems making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping

In addition to the physical and mental symptoms mentioned above, anxiety can cause social difficulties too. People suffering from anxious feelings may feel isolated as they’re reluctant to be around others due to their fear of being judged negatively for having anxiety issues.

This means that you might avoid activities you previously enjoyed such as going out with friends or attending parties due to these anxious thoughts about what others might think about them if they find out about their struggle with anxiety.

 

When should you get help for anxiety?

 

If you are struggling with daily feelings of anxiousness which are affecting your life or causing you distress, you should seek professional help from your doctor or a mental health specialist. They can help to diagnose your condition correctly, and provide advice on treatment options and coping strategies that work best for you.

 

Coping with anxiety

 

In addition to seeking professional care there are several things you can do every day which will help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing
  • Get enough sleep
  • Establish healthy eating habits
  • Reach out for social support from family/friends
  • Limit alcohol/caffeine intake
  • Practice mindfulness activities such as yoga or meditation.

All these strategies can help reduce overall stress levels, which in turn will help reduce your anxious thoughts, consequently improving your quality of life significantly.

While the symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the type of anxiety are experiencing, many people experience similar symptoms such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability or restlessness, fatigue or exhaustion, muscle tension or aches/pains.

The impact that these disorders have on an individual’s life can range from mild to severe; someone may only experience occasional bouts of extreme panic while another person could find themselves unable to leave the house due to debilitating fear and worry about social situations.

 

What treatment is available for anxiety?

 

As well as the self-help options above, getting the right help from medical professionals can have a significant effect on your quality of daily life. There are several different types of treatments that are available on the NHS that can help to ease your symptoms.

These include:

These treatments are highly efective for many, helping them to control their levels of anxiety on a day-to-day basis. However, treating anxiety isn't always a linear journey. Some treatments may need to be continued over a long period of times, and you may experience periods in which your symptoms worsen. If you are concerned, it is always best to speak to your GP.

Anxiety affects millions of people around the world every day but it doesn’t have to be something that holds or controls your life.

If you think that you might be struggling with chronic anxiety, then please don't hesitate to reach out for help. If you’re not already registered with one of our GP practices, you can register with us 24/7 for online or in-person medical support here.

 

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