People suffering from anxiety disorders often face more than a few minutes or hours of uncomfortable anxiety. Their anxiety goes on for longer periods of time – months on ends – and they can be so severe that they can be triggered by harmless situations, interfere with one’s social relationships, academic performance and work performance, and even result in comorbid mental health illnesses like depression. Understand what is and how we can treat anxiety.
Feelings of anxiety are part and parcel of everyone’s life. It is common to feel anxious or nervous before an exam, when being in an unfamiliar environment or when faced with a life changing decision. However, people suffering from anxiety disorders often face more than a few minutes or hours of uncomfortable anxiety. Their anxiety goes on for longer periods of time – months on ends – and they can be so severe that they can be triggered by harmless situations, interfere with one’s social relationships, academic performance and work performance, and even result in comorbid mental health illnesses like depression.
“I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. Constantly worrying about my health, work, my family, relationships etc. I never leave the apartment. I can’t bring myself to get a job because I feel terrible everyday. Digestion problems, headaches, dizziness, and an overall feeling of doom…I want to end it all.”
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
There are several types of anxiety disorders, one of which is generalised anxiety disorder.
Generalised anxiety disorder is characterised by a free floating feeling of anxiety that is not linked to a particular stimulus. The anxiety felt is usually described as being:
- Uncontrollable, and
Generalised anxiety disorder can not only manifest as psychological feelings of constant intrusive worries, but many patients often present physical symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Trembling and twitching
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating and hot flashes
- Fatigue, insomnia
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Irritability, restlessness and feeling on the edge
There are other anxiety disorders that are more specific in nature, such as social phobia, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder which are similar to but differ from generalised anxiety disorder in the nature that they are usually situation specific.
However, it is strongly advised for one to visit a doctor, as an accurate diagnosis can only be made with a full psychiatric history and assessment for other physical health illnesses
For mild generalised anxiety disorder, a doctor may suggest using simple lifestyle changes such as encouraging exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, or improving work-life balance.
Psychological treatments including muscle relaxation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling are also employed in practices all around the world. However, CBT is the most used around the world. It helps to identify unrealistic or irrational beliefs that you may have, and aims to replace these beliefs with more realistic and balanced ones. Rather than talking about problems you may have faced in the past, CBT targets current problems that you are facing. In the UK, 50% of people who have CBT recover from GAD.
It is important to remember that being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder is not a death sentence. With the right form of support and medication, about 50% of patients tend to recover fully, and many learn how to cope with it.
A list of mental health support services available in Singapore: http://www.singaporepsychiatry.org.sg/seek-help-for-anxiety-disorders/\
Written by: Jing Yi
Jing Yi is a currently a medical student who hopes to reach out to people who are afraid to seek help and inspire people to speak up about their experiences by writing. She strongly believes that there should be no stigma on mental health illnesses, and would be more than happy to offer a hug and a conversation to whoever that needs it.
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