What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Generalised Anxiety disorderFor some people, anxiety is a constant companion that has a debilitating impact on day-to-day life. This is known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD, for short) and involves worrying about a range of things rather than stress being focused on one particular trigger.  If you suffer from GAD, it can feel like you’re moving from one worry straight on to another and you will probably struggle to remember when you were last able to feel relaxed.
We all feel some anxiety and it’s perfectly normal to worry about things that cause you stress. In fact, this is actually your body’s way of managing stress and can often be a positive thing if it can be managed and channelled in the right way and encourages you to perform well in an exam or driving test, for example.
If it’s just a short term bout of anxiety that coincides with something big or important, you’ll often find that it passes once the cause of the stress has been and gone.
This isn’t always the case though, and it’s not that uncommon for anxiety to spiral out of control and continue long after the original “threat” or trigger has passed.
If this sounds familiar, you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way and it’s important to realise that you don’t have to live in this state of chronic anxiety. In this post, I’m going to talk about the symptoms and causes of generalised anxiety disorder and how hypnotherapy can be used as a treatment plan to help you to overcome it.

What Are the Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Because GAD involves chronic anxiety, it’s not surprising that it can result in a lot of physical and psychological effects.
These can include (but are certainly not limited to!):
  • A feeling of restlessness and constant worry
  • Fidgeting and feeling that you can’t sit still
  • Not being able to concentrate and feeling that your mind is forever flitting about
  • A feeling that something awful is going to happen
  • Insomnia (often because your mind is “wired” and you can’t switch off due to worries and stresses)
  • Feeling irritable and snappy
  • Dizziness and feeling faint
  • Palpitations
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Headaches

What Causes Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

If you suffer from GAD, you’re probably wondering what has happened to make you feel so on edge.
Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes some people to develop GAD but they have put forward a number of potential triggers that can make you more likely to be affected.
These include:
  • An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline – both of which regulate your mood
  • A family history of anxiety disorders can make you more likely to develop one, especially if close family members are affected
  • Suffering from a long term health condition that causes discomfort/pain such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • A history of drug and/or alcohol addiction
  • Having been a victim of traumatic or very stressful experiences

How Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder Treated?

The first line of treatment for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) will usually be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a way to change your thought patterns so that you begin to react differently to your anxiety triggers.
These type of talking therapies tend to be the mainstay of anxiety treatment due to the belief that they offer the best approach for the long term. They can work well as a short term treatment and can be a viable alternative to medication or if anxiety is not responding to medication. They won’t work wonders for everyone though, and this is where hypnotherapy can come into its own.
Medications are also often used to treat the chemical imbalances that are thought to be a factor in GAD.  Not everyone finds that their anxiety responds well to medications and it may have no real effect for some people.

How Can Hypnotherapy Help?

I’ve talked about how hypnotherapy can act as a treatment for chronic anxiety in a recent blog post so I’m not going to go into masses of detail about that here but here’s a brief overview:
Hypnotherapy differs from CBT as it doesn’t require you to make a truly conscious effort to change your thought processes. CBT is mostly about understanding your thought patterns and how they play into your anxiety. For example, many people will find that they “catastrophize” and automatically think of the worst possible scenario, which CBT will help to highlight and address.
While you’re in a trance, your unconscious mind can soak up suggestions to change negative beliefs that are fuelling your anxiety and replace them with more positive alternatives. This can work great if you struggle to correct your thinking through CBT style exercises as the work is done on an unconscious level.
There is good evidence that hypnotherapy can treat anxiety, and it can potentially be used by itself or as part of a wider treatment plan involving CBT.
GAD can be a severe condition that has a big effect on both your mental and physical health but you definitely don’t need to suffer in silence. If you seek treatment through your GP, you’ll probably be offered CBT and may also be prescribed medication but these aren’t your only options. They are much more widely researched than hypnotherapy but there’s a growing wealth of promising evidence showing that hypnotherapy can also help to overcome anxiety disorders.