Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety disorder is a blanket term given to a group of mental conditions where a person’s life is disrupted by persistent, excessive, and unreasonable fears, worries or anxiety.

Anxiety disorder categories include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder (panic attacks), phobic disorders, post-traumatic disorder and  obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Since we have discussed four conditions of the group elsewhere on this site, we are going to devote our attention to generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) on this page.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD exists where a person’s tolerance to the stress of life becomes overloaded to the point where they cannot cope adequately and start to show symptoms of dysfunction.  The condition is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry over everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals suffering GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friend problems, relationship problems or work difficulties.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Sufferers of GAD exhibit a variety of symptoms including;

  • fatigue
  • fidgeting
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • numbness in hands and feet
  • muscle tension
  • muscle aches
  • difficulty swallowing
  • bouts of difficulty breathing
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trembling
  • twitching
  • irritability
  • agitation
  • sweating
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • hot flashes
  • rashes

Diagnosis & Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Diagnostic criteria require any symptoms to be excessive, irrational, persistent and on-going for at least 6 months for a formal diagnosis of GAD to be made. However this does not mean that you should wait 6 months before seeking help for any persistent anxiety. It has been demonstrated time and again that all mental health conditions respond better to early intervention. This include anxiety disorders.

As with other anxiety disorders, it is thought that the occurrence of GAD is linked to disrupted functional connectivity of the amygdala region of the brain.

The preferred treatments for anxiety disorder are a combination of SSRI medication and CBT talking therapy. This combination is designed to compensate for any impaired functioning in reasoning and response processes, giving the sufferer space and time to “relearn” appropriate responses to normally stressful situations. While the combination of therapies is generally very effective in “kick starting” recovery from GAD, it has been demonstrated that a course of CBT is more successful in managing the disorder than long-term use of medication. It is therefore possible to undertake a short (6 months) course of SSRI therapy combined with CBT. The skills learned in CBT will enable a sufferer to manage his or her anxiety if and when it occurs in response to everyday stressors.

Therapists at The Therapy Hour are able to work with you if you suffer from anxiety. We will assess your symptoms and situation carefully before devising a program of treatment for you. This may or may not involve you liaising with your GP depending on the severity of your condition. Please contact us or complete our assessment form.