One of the fall-outs from experiencing trauma is living with generalized anxiety disorder. It is a of a sense of dread that colours everything in life, so the person can’t relax and focus on what’s happening now.
Note: The difference between ‘normal’ worrying and generalized anxiety disorder is the worrying associated with GAD is excessive, intrusive, persistent and debilitating.
Signs and Symptoms
The person diagnosed with GAD will typically struggle with the following, on a regular and ongoing basis:
– Constant worrying
– An inescapable feeling of anxiety, and the feeling this is something that is outside their control
– Being constantly troubled by intrusive, anxious thoughts. (Thoughts they can’t switch off)
– Being unable to tolerate uncertainty, and not ever knowing what the future may hold
– A pervasive feeling of apprehension or dread
– Being unable to relax, and to enjoy time alone
– Difficulties with attending, focusing and concentrating
– Feeling overwhelmed; feeling life is out of control
– Avoiding situations which leave you feeling worried or afraid
– chronic muscle tension
– Having trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, because your mind won’t switch off
– Feeling restless or edgy
– Tense headaches and migraines
– Upset stomach and nausea.
What Can You do to Help?
Here are a few things you can try to help you cope with GAD:
1. Do your best to build a good support network. We humans are social animals. We are meant to be with other people. Isolating ourselves will increase anxiety; whereas spending time with others reduces cortisol (a stress hormone). These should be people you feel comfortable with.
– If you sense your anxieties are beginning to spiral, talk them out with a trusted friend. Meeting face to face can help keep things in proportion.
– Think through in advance who it might be best to avoid when you’re feeling anxious. For example, if your sister is a terrible worrier then she probably won’t be the right person to calm you down, or to reorient you, when anxiety assaults you. As yourself the question: Do I generally feel better or worse after talking to this person? The answer here will give you important information.
2. Use your senses to ground you in the present. Notice and name what you can see, hear, smell, touch and – perhaps – taste.
3. Move your body. Doing some form of exercise – even if it’s only taking a short walk – will help to dissipate excessive cortisol. It will also release, and increase your levels of endorphins (the feeling good hormone).
4. Practice some kind of relaxation technique such as mindfulness, deep breathing, or meditation. These will stabilize blood pressure, slow your heart rate down, regulate your body’s ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response, and help you cope with any symptoms of hyperarousal.
5. At some point when you’re not anxious, set aside some time to take a new look at your worries. What are the triggers? Are they self-generated? Are there errors in your thinking that, perhaps you could challenge? (For example, perhaps you tend to think about worst-case scenarios.) These are areas you could address in counselling, or perhaps work through with a caring friend.
“Don’t believe every worried thought you have. Worried thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.”