Everyone gets worried about things from time to time – there’s a lot to be concerned about in these modern times, after all! But do you ever feel like your fears are getting somewhat out of control? Do you find yourself panicking more than you would usually, and is it starting to make you think twice about doing things that you would class as ‘normal’ activities? If so, there may be a chance you are suffering from anxiety.
It’s normal to feel anxious every now and again, but if those worries don’t go away, it could be a more serious problem than you might think. There are a lot of anxiety disorders that impact a huge range of people, and it doesn’t matter whether you are rich, poor, young, or old – it could happen at any time. General anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder are all more common than most people realize. There are severe and life-changing conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder and traumatic stress disorder to consider, too.
In this guide, however, we’re going to focus on dealing with what is called generalized anxiety disorder – or GAD. It’s by far the most common of the anxiety disorders and shows itself in a few different ways. If you have feelings of persistent worry, feel like you are lacking control, or are starting to feel uncomfortable in everyday situations, it might be time to check in with your doctor. And don’t be surprised if you or someone you know fall foul of this condition – almost one in ten people will develop GAD at some point in their lives.
The trouble with anxiety is that it can creep up on you, and before you know it you are in an emotional wreck. So, if you have been worrying excessively for the past few months, or feeling more restless and on edge than normal, don’t be afraid to take yourself to the doctor for a checkup. The longer you leave your anxiety to develop, the harder and longer it will be to get back under control. In today’s society, this can be harder to do than you might think. People tend to use phrases like ‘pull yourself together,’ or question why your worries are a problem – and men are often told to ‘man up.’ But the reality is that if you are suffering from GAD, you will need proper help. Your doctor may recommend some of the following treatments.
There are a lot of different types of medicine that are used in the treatment of GAD, from benzodiazepines through to antidepressants. However, it’s important to remember that these are only short-term solutions. Taking something like Valium will only give you temporary relief, and in the case of antidepressants, you might find that your symptoms return once you stop taking them. Your doctor may give you some of these medications, but they will also suggest you get some therapy to combine with your overall treatment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy – or CBT – is often offered as a treatment for people with GAD. Research has shown it is one of the most consistent and long-lasting treatments. A CBT therapist will work with you to help you manage your anxiety, take control of your thoughts and feelings, and start noticing your behavior at a deep level. You will also be taught how to challenge your anxious thoughts and fears, and you may even be prompted to try out relaxation techniques – such as massage.
Many people believe massage is good for all kinds of things, and although the research focusing on its benefits is still lacking to some degree, there is reasonable evidence it helps with sufferers of GAD. Part of the symptoms of general anxiety disorder is the extreme tension that develops in the muscles, which encourages the cycle to continue – and get worse. Small studies have found that 45-minute massage therapy sessions over a six-week period can lead to improved moods, fewer symptoms, and fewer signs of depression – which is often a side effect of anxiety disorders. Again, it’s important to speak to your doctor about getting this type of therapy before you get started, but there’s every chance your physician will give you the green light.
General lifestyle changes
While the treatments above can help you manage your symptoms, there is still a lot you can do for yourself. Ultimately, you need to control your anxiety yourself, and there are a few lifestyle changes that can help you achieve that goal. Muscle relaxation – and even Mindfulness meditation – could help you focus more on the now, rather than worrying about the past or future events. Short-term activities that you know you will enjoy are often good for you, too, as they will distract you from your fears. And – you won’t be surprised to hear – starting up regular exercise is also hugely beneficial. Every time you build up a sweat, your brain will release chemicals that counteract the impacts of anxiety, help you forget your troubles, and help you feel good about yourself. You should aim to do at least half an hour’s worth of cardio exercise three days a week.
Anxiety is all about the loss of control, with added stress. So as a final point, it is vital that you start problem-solving. Start with the little issues in your life – contacting a creditor, or having ‘that chat’ with a friend that has irritated you. Once you start taking back control, you will find it gradually gets easier to tackle more challenging issues. Ultimately, you will have to start exposing yourself to all those situations you want to avoid, whether it’s going out without your phone or attending a party with people you don’t know that well.
Defeating your fears can seem like an impossible task. Your brain is a powerful tool, but it is also hugely complicated and not averse to playing tricks on you. Anxiety is one of those tricks, and if you feel like your worries are starting to take control of your life, you will need some help to get you back to your usual self.