Whether it be starting out at a new job or sitting an exam, anxiety in our lives is not uncommon and in these situations is a natural occurrence. However this becomes a problem when the feeling is a constant factor in our everyday lives and begins to control and have dominance over our very existence.  This is known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a mental health order affecting approximately 4 percent of people in the UK that can make you feel extremely uneasy and restless about a wide range of situations that the majority of people may find trivial.

GAD is often the result of a traumatic event that has occurred in the life of the sufferer. It may also be due to a history of drug or alcohol abuse or just simply due to chemical imbalances in the body, overactivity in certain regions of the brain and various other physiological conditions.

There may be other physical and mental conditions that can either contribute to GAD or may exist in combination with GAD. ‘Hyperhidrosis is a common condition where a person sweats excessively, and much more than the body needs to regulate its temperature.’[1] An individual who has hyperhidrosis as an existing condition may be susceptible to GAD, as it may trigger embarrassment which may lead to anxiety in social situations. Social anxiety is also a common occurrence and can often coexist in patients with GAD. Individuals with this form of anxiety often find it increasingly difficult to put themselves into any type of social situation or where they may need to interact with other people. Severe forms of social anxiety can leave an individual housebound for lengthy periods at a time, weeks and even months, with little or no interaction with the outside world unless completely necessary.

As previously mentioned, a person who suffers from anxiety could suffer due to a number of different situations. If left untreated, this could build and progress into a more severe form of anxiety in which everyday situations that most people take for granted, such as getting the train in the morning or leaving the house to go to the shops can lead to a great deal of distress. When put into these situations, individuals may acquire additional symptoms, e.g., hyperhidrosis. It is also not uncommon for individuals to get a form of gastrointestinal distress or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to increased levels of stress. This may cause stomach irritability, diarrhoea, or constipation and the feeling of constantly needing or anticipating the need to go to the toilet. Many people who are living with GAD go on to develop IBS and vice versa, which contributes to the feeling of dread and anxiety that already consumes the individual.

If left untreated, GAD can be life-consuming and your life can fall into a downward spiral, a vicious cycle  of anxiety, negativity and dread in which you continue to think in the same way, and which may eventually lead to full blown depression. In this situation, a worst-case scenario may involve the individual having suicidal tendencies.  ‘These types of conditions rarely improve without treatment’[2], therefore if you suspect that you have GAD, it is essential to visit the doctor as soon as possible in order to notify them of your symptoms. Depending on the severity of the GAD recommended treatments tend to vary, and may involve psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, medication such as antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or a combination of treatments. These reuptake inhibitors work by effectively increasing the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin (which acts as a mood regulator in the brain) in the synapses of nerve cells. A lack of serotonin is linked to disorders such as depression and anxiety, and so the inhibitors work by reducing this effect. Both the psychological therapies and treatments tend to take several weeks or months to have a noticeable effect.

Having a form of anxiety disorder is no laughing matter. Gone are the days where you may be told to ‘man up’ or ‘get a grip of yourself’. It is of course not as simple as that and anxiety is now given the recognition that it fully deserves, as a serious mental health condition that can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life if not addressed.

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hyperhidrosis/pages/introduction.aspx

[2] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Irritable-bowel-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx