Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
"Just don't worry, it will all be fine"
If you have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) then you may have received this (not so helpful) advice from friends, family or acquaintances. Although the advice might come from a place of good intention, it can leave us feeling invalidated, misunderstood and frustrated. If only it was as simple as just not worrying!
Although everyone worries and feels anxious from time to time, people with anxiety disorders can find their lives consumed by anxious thoughts about anything and everything, and often live day to day feeling on edge, unable to relax, just waiting for something to go wrong. This constant sense of fear and unease can sap your energy and really take the fun out of life.
Anxiety leaves us feeling both emotionally and physically exhausted. The anxious mind is constantly going at 100 miles an hour, worrying about our work, relationships, health, children, finances...the list is endless. We find ourselves conjuring up the worst possible outcomes for every single scenario that we can think of, and we are left with little mental space for us to focus on anything, or anyone, else.
Not only does this mean that our brains are tired, but our bodies are tired as a result too. The stress hormones that are released when we feel anxious can cause muscle tension, headaches, heartburn, nausea pins and needles as well as numerous other physical symptoms. This can then lead to further worry that there is something wrong with our physical health.
Anxiety is commonly a secondary emotion - that means that we might experience it in place of another underlying emotion that we find difficult to feel, acknowledge or express. This anxiety iceberg image is a great visual representation of some of the underlying feelings that are associated with anxiety (shame, depression, loneliness, insecurity, grief), and also of how anxiety can present itself in how we behave on the surface (anger, avoidance, over planning, insomnia, negativity, lack of focus).
You might have spent a lot of your life feeling anxious. Or perhaps you have gone from being someone who has always felt relatively carefree and in control, to being someone who is suddenly consumed by constant worry. Either way, being told that you have an anxiety disorder can feel unsettling and sometimes frightening. You might be wondering whether you will always feel this way or whether this is your new "normal".
You do not need to remain trapped in a spiral of anxiety forever.
There are a number of things that you can do to help yourself, including accessing counselling.
As shown above, anxiety is often masking an underlying emotion. I work alongside people to safely explore what might be happening for them below the surface, and consider where the seeds of their anxiety might have been planted. I believe that helping people to gain greater insight into their emotions, whatever they are, can empower them to live fuller, happier and calmer lives. If you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch.