Generalised Anxiety Disorder & Addiction
It’s normal to feel anxious occasionally, particularly if you are going through a difficult time or experiencing a drastic life change. However, someone with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) will regularly worry uncontrollably about a number of different things.
They may not know exactly what they are worried about, describing it as a ‘feeling of impending doom’ and believing that something bad is about to happen. Often, they are aware that there is no reason to worry but are unable to control these intense feelings of anxiety.
In severe cases, GAD can make it difficult to sufferers to carry out daily tasks and may even impact their career and relationships.
What are the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder?
People suffering from generalised anxiety disorder can exhibit a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, with some individuals experiencing many symptoms and others noticing only two or three. 
Some of these symptoms can be distressing with many sufferers believing that they are experiencing problems with their heart, and can lead to a panic attack if not correctly managed.
Above all else, it’s important to remember that symptoms of anxiety are not dangerous and will eventually pass.
Physical symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder include:
- Heart palpitations
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tingling feeling in lips, fingers and hands
- Gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhoea
- Excessive perspiration
- Difficulty breathing and catching your breath
- Stiff, tense and aching muscles
- Insomnia and nightmares
Psychological symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder
- Constantly worrying about a number of different things
- Becoming withdrawn and isolated
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and fear
- Feeling irritable and restless
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Believing that something terrible is going to happen
- Constant sense of dread
- Feeling ‘on edge’ most of the time
These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and may prevent people with generalised anxiety disorder from carrying out everyday tasks and activities such as going to work regularly or seeing friends.
If you can relate to a number of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you speak to your GP and take steps to recover from this disorder.
What are the causes of generalised anxiety disorder?
Many people develop generalised anxiety disorder as an adult, while a number of people begin to exhibit symptoms of this disorder as far back as childhood.
There are a variety of potential causes and factors that can increase the chances of developing generalised anxiety disorder, although it is possible for anyone to struggle with this disorder even if they do not relate to any of the below points.
1. Stressful or traumatic events
Prolonged exposure to a stressful event or traumatic experiences, such as childhood bullying or a sexual assault, has been proven to increase the chances of developing generalised anxiety disorder due to the rise in cortisol levels associated with this event.
This is particularly likely if the individual has not yet addressed the trauma and taken steps to move towards healing and recovery.
2. A family history of generalised anxiety disorder
If you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, you are more likely to develop this disorder than someone who does not have a family member with GAD. Studies have shown that this is due to genetics that are passed throughout the family, and could also potentially be influenced by seeing a parent with the disorder react to certain situations and mirroring this behaviour.
3. Naturally anxious personality
Certain people are simply more prone to anxiety than others due to their personality type, which likely results from a combination of all of the above and below factors.
They may have also learned how to make sense of the world and how to react to certain situations from someone who was also naturally anxious, shaping their personality in a way that may make them more inclined to develop generalised anxiety disorder.
4. Childhood experiences
Growing up with overly critical parents or suffering physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or mental abuse can often result in generalised anxiety disorder both in childhood and later in life.
If the individual has never taken steps to address the issues that they faced during childhood, they are more likely to react in an anxious manner to future situations particularly if they are perceived as a threat. 
4. Substance use
Certain substances such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine can induce feelings of anxiety. Over time, prolonged use of these substances has the potential to result in generalised anxiety disorder as the body becomes used to functioning with these substances in the system and reacts accordingly.
How is generalised anxiety disorder treated?
One of the most common and effective treatments for generalised anxiety disorder is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy that challenges the patient’s mindset and behaviours in order to reduce feelings of anxiety. 
CBT can help to reduce self-destructive actions and change thinking patterns that can lead to anxious thoughts and has been proven to provide long-term relief for sufferers of generalised anxiety disorder.
As well as counselling there are a number of medications that can be prescribed to treat the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, including anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants. While antidepressants can be taken for longer periods of time, anti-anxiety medication should only be taken on a short-term basis due to the risk of addiction.
Common medications prescribed for generalised anxiety disorder include:
It is important not to self-diagnose with generalised anxiety disorder, and only take medication that has been prescribed to you by a medical doctor.
Thankfully, generalised anxiety disorder is seen as an extremely manageable disorder and patients can choose from a combination of treatments including natural remedies and self-care tips if they do not feel comfortable with the idea of medication and/or counselling.
Which self-help techniques can be used to help with generalised anxiety disorder?
Along with medication and professional counselling options, there are a number of free and relatively easy techniques that can help to alleviate the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder and potentially prevent future triggers.
Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and other substances
Stimulants such as caffeine, diet pills and a number of illicit substances can increase your heart rate and induce symptoms of generalised anxiety. You may feel jittery, on-edge and anxious – a combination that can potentially lead to a panic attack if not properly managed.
It can be tempting to turn to alcohol in order to relieve symptoms of anxiety, but this may cause you to become trapped in a cycle of anxiety and alcohol withdrawal which will ultimately increase your symptoms and make you feel worse.
Practising mindfulness and meditation
If you struggle with generalised anxiety disorder, you may notice that you tend to worry a lot about potential events and outcomes that may happen in the future, On many occasions, these worries are unfounded and never come to fruition.
Making an effort to focus on the present moment can be an extremely effective way to reduce feelings of anxiety, and this is commonly known as the practice of mindfulness. There are a number of techniques involved in mindfulness including meditation and gratitude journaling, and it can even be as simple as leaving your phone at home and taking a walk in nature.
Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly
Taking care of your physical health can increase your self-confidence and help you to feel more in control of your life.
Making sure to eat a healthy diet and exercise as often as possible can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and build self-esteem. Cutting down on sugar and MSG, two substances found in many convenience goods has been found to lower anxiety and improve the quality of sleep, particularly when paired with regular exercise.
Get enough sleep
Most people thrive on 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but sleeping too little can make it difficult to think clearly and function in your daily life and may also contribute to increased feelings of anxiety.
You may become irritable, grumpy and struggle with feeling motivated if you regularly sleep for less than the recommended amount of time, and may experience a flare-up of generalised anxiety symptoms on a frequent basis.
Share your worries with a trusted friend, family member or therapist
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to keep your worries and emotions bottled up inside. Letting them out in the company of a friend or family member that you trust – or a professional therapist – can be an immense relief and will help you to feel less alone.
It’s common for people with generalised anxiety disorder to feel as though their thoughts and worries are a burden for other people, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You deserve to seek support from the people who care most about you, and you’ll likely find that they are happy to share your burden in order to help you.