Anxiety Disorders: Generalised Anxiety

Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human response to a variety of stressors. For some individuals, however, anxiety can become excessive, causing disruption to their ability to engage with everyday life and their daily activities. When this occurs, their relationship to anxiety moves from one that’s standard to one that’s classified as an anxiety disorder.

 

What is anxiety?

If you’ve ever felt a feeling of unease (potentially in the form of fear, worry, or ongoing concern), you’re familiar with the sensation of anxiety. Anxiety can range from mild through to severe, bringing a range of physiological, mental and emotional impacts along with it.

Anxiety in and of itself is a normal response to stress. In fact, it can be of great use in some situations, helping to keep us alert and aware. Anxiety is often at play when individuals feel nerves before delivering a big speech, taking an important test, or finding out results they’ve been waiting for. When anxiety becomes constant and excessive, however, this points not to a standard anxiety response to stimuli, but to the signs of an anxiety disorder that requires treatment.

 

What are anxiety disorders?

There’s a range of diagnosable anxiety disorders and corresponding anxiety treatments, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and highly specific phobias. Anxiety disorders affect millions of people around the world, and can be detrimental to the ability to enjoy and engage with daily life, resulting in a lower quality of life. 

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined by an ongoing and excessive worry about all kinds of everyday life events and occurrences. It can also cause physical symptoms as a result of excessive anxiety, such as muscle tension, headaches and fatigue. The exact cause of GAD is unknown, but a wide range of genetic, environmental and neurological factors are believed to contribute to its occurrence. 

 

What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorder symptoms can vary depending on both the specific disorder type and the individual circumstances of the person struggling with it, but there are a number of common symptoms that point to their presence.

What are the physical symptoms?

While anxiety may seem like something that takes place in the mind, its impact is widely felt across the body. Its physical symptoms include:

  • An irregular or racing heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • A tight sensation in the chest or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or a sensation of lightheadedness
  • Digestive problems, including nausea
  • Aching or tense muscles
  • Ongoing fatigue or a sense of weakness
 

Who is at risk for anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders don’t discriminate when it comes to who may be at risk of developing one. In fact, anxiety disorders can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender, background or geographical location.

But while anxiety disorders can be experienced by all of us, numerous factors can lead to an increased risk of developing one. These include:

  • A family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Trauma or stressful and impacting life events (including the death of a close family member or friend, a traumatic divorce, financial challenges, health problems or challenging circumstances)
  • Specific medical conditions including heart disease or thyroid problems
  • Ongoing substance dependence, including alcohol or drug use
 

What causes anxiety disorders?

You may find yourself hunting for a logical root cause for your anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, managing anxiety disorders isn’t that simple.

These disorders are complex conditions that can be the result of a wide combination of factors. Research is continuing into potential causes of anxiety disorders, with findings to date identifying that genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry may all play a role in the presence of an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety disorders may present early in life or later in life, occurring suddenly or gradually. By understanding the factors that may contribute to an anxiety disorder, you can examine your own life and mental health experience to identify potential triggers and the subsequent need for treatment. No matter your individual circumstances, there’s always support available to find management techniques and healing from the impacts of your anxiety disorder.

 

Who can diagnose anxiety disorders?

In Australia, anxiety disorders can be diagnosed by a variety of qualified health and mental health practitioners and professionals.

These healthcare professionals will use a sophisticated assessment approach, as well as diagnostic tools, to assess the individual for all kinds of anxiety disorders. Once a diagnosis has been made, they can also provide personalised treatment recommendations.

Australians also have access to specialised mental health clinics and services that can also provide a diagnosis for anxiety disorders, which can then lead to anxiety therapy. If you believe you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, it’s important to reach out for the professional help you need to secure ongoing access to treatments and support tools. 

 

Management and treatment

The management and treatment of anxiety disorders will differ based on individual needs. Common management approaches include a combination of anti-anxiety medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adaptations, with cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety a common form of treatment. It’s important to seek professional help in finding the right combination of therapeutic tools for your individual anxiety disorder experience.

How are anxiety disorders treated?

While some healthcare professionals will provide advice solely related to the area of medication, understanding the treatments available to you across a wide range of holistic therapeutic practices can make a dramatic impact on your quality of life.  

Medications may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs or beta-blockers. Psychotherapy may take the form of cognitive-behavioural therapy or other forms of psychotherapeutic approaches that can build individual coping strategies and reform the thought patterns that can contribute to ongoing anxiety levels. 

Lifestyle changes can also be of significant benefit when it comes to managing an anxiety disorder on a daily basis. Small changes, such as increasing regular exercise, adapting eating habits to focus more on whole foods and a nutritionally-rich diet, getting enough sleep and reducing caffeine and alcohol can all play a part in reducing the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. 

How does psychotherapy treat anxiety disorders?

Like with medication, psychotherapy can play a key role in supporting individuals experiencing an anxiety disorder. 

Psychotherapy can provide opportunities for the development of coping skills and symptom management strategies, as well as the exploration of root causes that may have contributed to the development of an anxiety disorder. One of the most common forms of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy.

 

How we can help

At Hope In Health, we know just how much of an impact anxiety disorders can have not only on you, but also on your friends and family. We bring a compassionate and care-filled approach to the development of individualised programs that keep you firmly in charge of your recovery experience, using the highest quality of therapeutic treatments to provide integrated, holistic and transformational care.

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