We can all get a little het-up about things, whether it’s something big like moving cities or something smaller like getting ready for a first date! It’s inevitable that people worry about parts of their life – friends, family, work, money. There seem to be endless things to think about these days!
But imagine how difficult life would be if we were to become excessively worried about even minor things? People suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) live in a world of worry and anxiety, even when there is little or no reason to feel this way, making everyday life very difficult. GAD is a chronic condition that can wax and wane – patients often experience flares during, for example, stressful periods of time, where their lives can become clouded in a fog of worry which disrupts their lives and can make everyday tasks impossible. GAD is also surprisingly common, and is thought to occur in around 1 in 25 people in the UK.
Multiple factors are thought to contribute to the development of GAD, including both inherited genetic risk factors, as well as environmental factors such as traumatic and stressful lifetime experiences like abuse, domestic violence and bullying. Alcohol and drug abuse have also been linked to the development of GAD. Imbalances in the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline – both known to be involved in controlling mood – are thought to underlie the development of GAD, as well as altered activity levels in areas of the brain involved in emotional processing and behaviour. Like many psychological disorders, the process by which GAD occurs and manifests is poorly understood, and the identified risk factors are not necessary for development of GAD – some patients seem to develop it for no obvious reason.
Treatment of GAD involves a combination of psychological and pharmacological therapy: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to address and alter how the patient perceives the world in the hope of relieving anxiety/worry, whilst pharmacological therapy involves the use of antidepressants to try and elevate mood. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a common class of antidepressant used in GAD treatment, and together with CBT these pharmacological therapies do improve the quality of many patients’ lives. However, anti-depressants come with a number of side effects which can affect the quality of a GAD sufferer’s life, and so the future of GAD therapy will likely aim to focus on psychological therapy or use of drugs with fewer side effects!
We hope you enjoyed that intro to GAD – it’s an incredibly common disorder that many people aren’t even aware exists! The chances are that you know a number of people that suffer from GAD – whether diagnosed or undiagnosed. Experiencing anxiety and worry is completely normal, but being able to identify when things are getting out of hand is crucial!
Katzman, M., & Tsirgielis, D. (2011). Treatment Approaches to Generalized Anxiety Disorder International Journal of Clinical Reviews DOI: 10.5275/ijcr.2011.08.09
Gosselin P, & Laberge B (2003). [Etiological factors of generalized anxiety disorder]. L’Encephale, 29 (4 Pt 1), 351-61 PMID: 14615705