While a little anxiety is part of life, it interferes with the daily functioning of those suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
It's not unusual to feel anxious, especially when you perceive a threat to yourself or a loved one’s safety, security and welfare. Thus, the imminent anxiety that warns you of a real threat is adaptive as it lets you know that you are at a risk of danger, until you do something to eliminate the threat. But, there are those who are predisposed to chronic anxiety and may be suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Dealing with GAD While most people worry about issues such as family, work pressures, health and money, these concerns do not typically get in the way of everyday functioning. But those with GAD are prone to be apprehensive most of the time. “GAD is a condition wherein there is a constant free-floating anxiety about several things one after the other, which causes distress to a person,” says Dr Alpes Panchal, consultant psychiatrist and the founder of The Freemind Initiative. “For instance, anxiety before an exam or during some sporting event is normal, but when the feeling is continuous, it’s GAD,” he adds. While the symptoms were often misconstrued as depression earlier, Alpes believes it has always been quite prevalent in urban populations. “After GAD was formulated, the diagnosis has increased. Hence, there is a rise in the cases of GAD.”
According to the doctor, while there are no specific reasons, some people are genetically predisposed, especially those with a family history of depression or anxiety. “When such vulnerable people are under stress at an early age, they have more chances of developing GAD as adults. However, in medical terms, the cause is often due to a decrease of a chemical called serotonin in the brain,” he says. According to clinical psychologist Dr Monica Sharma, a family history of GAD and prolonged exposure to a stressful situation can make an individual vulnerable.
“Dealing with anxiety requires people to first accept that their anxiety is getting in the way of their functioning. Mild anxiety can be dealt at an individual level, with the help of meditation or by pursuing hobbies that serve as distractions. But if they can’t handle it on their own, moderate or severe GAD requires a psychiatric intervention,” explains the psychiatrist
Time to approach a psychiatrist
The sooner you seek help, the better are your chances of leading a normal life. Monica suggests, “Before visiting a psychiatrist, it is good to figure out the seriousness of the problem. It is good to see psychologists as they can help manage your anxiety. If medications are required, a psychiatrist will suggest a course of action.” Seeking clinical help will let the patient understand whether the anxiety is positive or negative.
Seek help from family
By not confronting or questioning the patient about the anxious behaviour, you can help your friend or family member. “Friends and family can help by being supportive. Caretakers must realise that it is an illness just like malaria or diabetes. We treat the fever. Similarly, we need to treat GAD,” Alpes confirms.