General Anxiety Disorder
In itself, anxiety is not a bad emotion. It is normal to feel anxious and nervous occasionally, but when one feels disproportionate levels of anxiety, in a way that it inhibits one’s daily life, it can be classified as a mental illness. The Google definition of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) states that it is “a mental health disorder characterised by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one's daily activities.”
The causes behind General Anxiety Disorder are still not fully understood. There could be a variety of reasons behind it, such as stress build up, trauma and environmental stress. It can also be genetic, meaning that one could inherit it from a family member. There are various medical problems that can also lead to anxiety, such as heart disease and diabetes. However, something that leads to the development of anxiety in one individual will not always lead to the same happening in another. Brain chemistry also plays a part in the development of such a disorder.
About 3.6% of the population, 4.6% of women and 2.6% of men, suffer from General Anxiety Disorder every year. The number of women suffering from it is higher than the number of men due to a number of reasons. Female hormones are more susceptible to anxiety, as they contribute to a longer acting fight or flight response. In addition, women are more likely to suffer from abuse and trauma which may lead to the development of anxiety.
During periods of anxiety, one could start to hyperventilate and their heart rate can increase. In the moment, these characteristics helps the body prepare for flight or fight. However, these symptoms are characterised by shortness of breath, light-headedness and physical weakness. Long term anxiety can negatively affect cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that anxiety increases the risk of heart diseases in otherwise healthy people. Other long-term effects of anxiety can include depression, insomnia, social isolation, etc.
If you think you, or someone you know, suffers from GAD, it is important to get a diagnosis by consulting a doctor. Once diagnosed, it is easier to figure out which steps to take to reduce the daily effects of such a mental illness. Medication, therapy and support groups are common treatments offered to help with anxiety. Smaller, everyday changes to your lifestyle, such as meditation or physical activity can also help.