What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

We can all feel anxious from time to time.
Taking and exam, important deadlines, speaking to new people and starting a new job can all cause us to feel worried.
However, these feelings of anxiety are usually temporary and will go away after the trigger has passed.
If you find yourself feeling frequently anxious or unable to relax for no clear reason or the triggers for your anxiety is irrational, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders and it is estimated that 5% of the UK population has the condition.
Experiencing anxiety can be distressing and it can be hard to know what to do or where to go for help.
In this guide, we're going to explain everything you need to know about Generalised Anxiety Disorder, what it feels like and how you can get help for your symptoms.

Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder a mental illness?

Having anxiety is often trivialised, as just feelings of worry and something that is emotional.
Anxiety disorders, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, are recognised and diagnosable mental illnesses.
It is so much more than just worrying and symptoms can differ from person to person.
If you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, you may feel unable to relax for long periods of time and experience uncontrollable worries.
Like other illnesses, anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, digestive issues and sleep problems.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder can have a negative impact on everyday life and relationships, but there are many treatments and medicines available to help manage symptoms.

How does anxiety affect you?

Anxiety can affect us both mentally and physically.
The type of severity of symptoms can vary from person to person, which can sometimes make it tricky to diagnose.
Mental symptoms include:

  • Being unable to relax
  • Fearing the worst or experiencing a constant sense of dread
  • Feeling self-conscious about your anxious feelings or feeling that other people are judging your anxious
  • Constant worrying
  • Fearing that something terrible will happen if you don't constantly worry
  • Low mood
  • Feeling disconnected from your mind or body or feeling like you are a character that you are watching in a film (known as dissociation)
  • Feeling disconnected from the world or that life isn't real (derealisation)
  • Worrying a lot about the future

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Pins and needles
  • Feeling unable to sit still
  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Changes in your sex drive
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep issues

During stressful periods in our lives, we may experience some of these symptoms, however this is due to a stressful trigger, such as work, relationships or an important event.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms frequently for 2 weeks or more and you can't identify a specific reason why you feel like this, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
It may be useful to keep a diary when you first start to experience these symptoms to see how regular and severe they are.
This diary will also come in handy when you visit your doctor, as it will outline the symptoms you have experienced, when you are experiencing them and how they impact your life.

Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder curable?

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a long-term condition and there is no specific cure for it.
However, there are a variety of treatments and medications that can help to control the symptoms.

What is CBT?

CBT is short for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and it is a form of talking therapy that can help you to manage symptoms of anxiety by changing the way you think and behave.
It works by helping you to break down overwhelming thoughts, problems and situations into smaller and more manageable parts.
It aims to identify practical ways for you to improve your mental state and to manage your symptom every day.
When you start CBT you will have regular appointment with a therapist and you will work with them to break down your problems into manageable parts.
You will also work out how to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours to manage your symptoms.

What is Applied Relaxation?

This treatment focuses on relaxing your muscle during scenarios where you usually experience anxiety.
The relaxation techniques will be taught by a therapist and will involve:

  • Learning how to real your muscles
  • Learning how to relaxy your muscles in response to a trigger
  • Practising relaxing your muscles in anxious situations


Medication for anxiety

If you prefer not to use psychological treatments or found that they haven't helped your symptoms, your doctor will usually offer you some form of medication.
There are a variety of medications that a GP can prescribe to help manage symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Some anxiety medications are meant to be taken short-term whilst others are suitable for long-term use.
If you are experiencing physical symptoms, your doctor may also recommend medication to help with those.
Your GP will go through your symptoms, your general health and the options that are available for you.

Does Generalised Anxiety Disorder qualify as a disability?

According to the Equality Act in the UK, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
The act focusses more on the effect of your mental health problem, such as anxiety, rather than the diagnosis.
In order for anxiety to qualify as a disability, you will need to show that your mental health problem:

  • Has a significant effect on your everyday life and day to day activities
  • Makes activities in life more difficult for you
  • Has lasted for at least 12 months or is likely to last 12 months

The law focuses on how your condition affects you without your treatment or medication, so if you are taking medicine or using psychological therapy, this is to be ignored and the focus is on how your anxiety affects you without treatment.
Under the Equality Act, you cannot be discriminated against because you have anxiety or any other mental health problem that qualifies as a disability.
Discrimination includes:

  • Being treated worse than other people because you have a disability
  • Treated badly or unfairly because of something that happens due to your disability
  • Practices or arrangements that put you and others with your disability at a disadvantage compared with those who do not have your disability
  • Harassment - behaviour that violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, degrading, offensive or humiliating environment
  • Victimisation - when an employer, company or organisation puts you at a disadvantage because you have made an allegation about discrimination or you have supported someone who has made an allegation of discrimination

If your mental health problem qualifies as a disability, the Equality Act states that employers and service providers should consider making reasonable adjustments (changes) if you're at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who do not have a mental health problem.

Where to get help for anxiety

So there we have a quick tour through Generalised Anxiety Disorder and its symptoms.
But what do you do if you think you have an anxiety disorder?
If you are experiencing anxiety regularly for more than 2 weeks seek advice from your doctor.
They will ask you about your symptoms and will help you to identify the best treatment for you.
If you are unsure whether you have anxiety, there are a lot of resources available online that contain loads of information about anxiety.

Useful Websites

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