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Anxiety is a normal human emotion when faced with threat.

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However, for some people, lots of everyday things begin to feel like a threat and anxiety begins to limit your day-to-day life. Two tendencies often play a role in this:. This means you worry a lot about what might happen and how you will cope if it does. You feel really anxious in spite of the facts, and sometimes the more you delve into it, research and seek reassurance, the worse you actually feel. This worry sometimes replaces other emotions that you might find hard to experience, such as sadness, grief or anger too.

The worrying can lead to thinking a lot about the same things and making lots of plans for how to control them.

What are the signs and symptoms of GAD?

Often these events are based in the future, and as they have not happened yet, there are a lot of unknowns and things outside of your control. Naturally, you may start to avoid situations that you are worried about. Or you may try to block out the worry by using alcohol, drugs, overeating or zoning out in front of a screen. But the more you try to control anxiety and make sure nothing unexpected happens, the more it grows. If you avoid situations, it just gets harder the next time you need to face them. And if you try to block anxiety out or numb it down, that also makes it grow more.

You get caught in a cycle of increasing anxiety. The good news is that there is way out of this cycle. Instead of trying to control things or block out your thoughts and feelings, you can learn how to experience them in a manageable way. Most are based on cognitive behaviour therapy CBT , an evidence-based approach to managing and recovering from anxiety.

Check out the apps and e-learning websites that have been reviewed and recommended by Health Navigator. See also the links and resources attached to the Overview page and Resources page.

An Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety. It is a normal human response to situations that may include some kind of threat, real or perceived. It can help you to prepare well for big events and to take care in situations that objectively are risky. So, it's important to expect and learn to tolerate some anxiety. However, it's also important to recognise when your anxiety has become unhelpful and take action to counter it.

Generalized anxiety disorder.

Taking small steps to face what you are worried you won't be able to cope with is called graded exposure. Graded exposure helps you slowly build your confidence in your ability to cope with the things you have been avoiding. When you face a fear by doing the thing you've been avoiding, your fight or flight response will be triggered. This is when your brain releases certain hormones into your body so you are ready to fight off or run away from a real threat. It also gets triggered when you feel anxious about things that aren't an actual threat. If you stay long enough in the situation you are worried about, your fight or flight response — and therefore your anxiety — goes down.

If you keep doing it a bit more or staying a bit longer each time, your anxiety still rises at the start each time, but not as much as the time before. Also, you usually find that your fear was unfounded, which is an empowering experience.


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When you do the thing that worries you again and again, your anxiety goes away faster each time. Eventually, you find that you can do much more than before without being worried about it. Mindfulness helps you observe anxiety without reacting to it. By just noticing anxiety, you can avoid some of the traps people fall into.

It can help you stop fighting anxiety only to find it come back more. It can also help you stop overthink things to try and find solutions to something that is not solvable. One of the key messages with anxiety is that the more we try to control it and achieve certainty, the more our discomfort and sense of uncertainty tends to increase.

Read more about self-care for anxiety. Getting help is key to overcoming an anxiety disorder. There are plenty of support groups so you don't feel alone in your struggles. And there are many psychological practitioners who know the proven methods to help you break free from anxiety. You can:. Make sure you know the emergency numbers for New Zealand.

Ring for emergencies, or Healthline What is mindfulness? Centre for Clinical Interventions, Australia. Mindfulness and letting go. Royal College of Psychiatrists Range of mental health topics in over 20 languages. There are a variety of mobile phone apps for anxiety, stress, depression and general mental health.


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  • Some are free, some have a cost, and some require prescription from your doctor. This page is designed for clinicians doctors, nurses, pharmacists, specialists, etc or those seeking more detail. Identify and communicate the diagnosis of GAD as early as possible to help people understand the disorder and start effective treatment promptly.

    This is because education and active monitoring may improve less severe presentations and avoid the need for further interventions. It is similar to individual guided self-help but usually with minimal therapist contact, for example an occasional short telephone call of no more than 5 minutes. For people with GAD and marked functional impairment, or those whose symptoms have not responded adequately to step 2 interventions offer either:.

    Provide verbal and written information on the likely benefits and disadvantages of each mode of treatment, including the tendency of drug treatments to be associated with side effects and withdrawal syndromes. If a person with GAD chooses a high-intensity psychological intervention, offer either cognitive behavioural therapy CBT or applied relaxation. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. Monitor the person carefully for adverse reactions.

    Do not offer a benzodiazepine for the treatment of GAD in primary or secondary care except as a short-term measure during crises. Do not offer an antipsychotic for the treatment of GAD in primary care. If sertraline is ineffective, offer an alternative SSRI or a serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor SNRI , taking into account the following factors:. Consider referral to step 4 if the person with GAD has severe anxiety with marked functional impairment in conjunction with:. Review the needs of families and carers and offer an assessment of their caring, physical and mental health needs if one has not been offered previously.

    Develop a comprehensive care plan in collaboration with the person with GAD that addresses needs, risks and functional impairment and has a clear treatment plan. Inform people with GAD who have not been offered or have refused the interventions in steps 1—3 about the potential benefits of these interventions and offer them any they have not tried. Consider offering combinations of psychological and drug treatments, combinations of antidepressants or augmentation of antidepressants with other drugs, but exercise caution and be aware that:. Combination treatments should be undertaken only by practitioners with expertise in the psychological and drug treatment of complex, treatment-refractory anxiety disorders and after full discussion with the person about the likely advantages and disadvantages of the treatments suggested.

    When treating people with complex and treatment-refractory GAD, inform them of relevant clinical research in which they may wish to participate, working within local and national ethical guidelines at all times. Seminar series of 7 video updates about "non-drug therapies for common mental health conditions in primary care: depression, anxiety and distress. With the aim being to encourage practitioners to talk first, get patients being physically and socially active, and see how they do.

    Access to the following regional pathways is localised for each region and access is limited to health providers. The good news is that GAD is treatable. Call your doctor to talk about your symptoms so that you can feel better. GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:. Both children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.

    Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and they are often worse during times of stress, such as with a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. By learning more about how the brain and body function in people with anxiety disorders, researchers may be able to create better treatments.


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    • Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors play a role. First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam and ask you about your health history to make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer to you a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

      GAD is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.

      What are the signs and symptoms of GAD?

      CBT teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help him or her feel less anxious and worried. Doctors may also prescribe medication to help treat GAD. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medication and dose for you. Different types of medication can be effective in GAD:. They may take several weeks to start working.

      These medications may also cause side effects, such as headaches, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. These side effects are usually not severe for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time.