Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. However, people with generalised anxiety disorder find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and often affect their daily life.
Generalised anxiety disorder is a long-term condition which causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People with this condition feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.
Psychological symptoms include:
- a sense of dread
- feeling constantly "on edge"
- difficulty concentrating
- being easily distracted
Physical symptoms include:
- drowsiness and tiredness
- pins and needles
- irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- muscle aches and tension
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- stomach ache
- excessive thirst
- frequent urinating
- painful or missed periods
- difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
If you have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, you will usually be advised to try psychological treatment before you are prescribed medication. The main type of psychological treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Research suggests that around half of people who have CBT recover and many others get some benefit. CBT helps you identify unhelpful and unrealistic beliefs and behavioural patterns. You and your therapist work together to change your behaviour and replace unhelpful beliefs with more realistic and balanced ones. CBT teaches you new skills and helps you understand how to react more positively to situations that would usually cause you anxiety.
Another treatment for anxiety is applied relaxation which focuses on relaxing your muscles in a particular way during situations that usually cause anxiety. The technique will need to be taught by a trained therapist.
A variety of different types of medication can be used in treatment. Some medication is designed to be taken on a short-term basis, while other medicines are prescribed for longer periods. Depending on your symptoms, you may require medicine to treat your physical symptoms as well as your psychological ones.
Long-term medication includes:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline, fluoxetine, citalopram or paroxetine
Short-term medication includes:
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