Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that anxiety is normal. In fact, anixety is a normal human response to challenging events. Challenging events range from very mild (like where did I leave my phone) to really problematic (like perpetually worrying if your loved ones are safe).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive, exaggerated anxiety, and worry about everyday life events even when there is no apparent threat. Daily life becomes a constant state of worry and dread. In severe cases, individuals with GAD may find it difficult to carry out daily tasks. This is compounded by the lack of drive or motivation to even get out of bed to face the day’s tasks and challenges, especially when it comes to going to work or school. Research indicates that women are more vulnerable to GAD, and the disorder tends to worsen around middle adulthood.

Eventually, anxiety may even dominate a person's cognition so much so that everyday life becomes hard to engage with. Feelings of anxiety are common, and oftentimes there are good apparent reasons. However, with the increasingly fast pace of life, coupled with unpredictable nature of COVID, Ministry of Health (MOH) Singapore estimated that about 10% of Singapore’s population experiences a form of an anxiety disorder. This means that the number of persons suffering from GAD is not an insignificant number. Therefore, you need not feel alone in your feelings, only that it is essential that help is sought if these symptoms occur.

At the same time, it is important to remember that a diagnosis of GAD is not automatically given even if one experiences most or all of the symptoms listed. GAD is a clinical diagnosis that must be made by a trained clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

Here are some symptoms of GAD (symptoms are to be present for at least 6 months and not caused by other medical issues):

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • Feeling on edge
  • Feeling a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being "edgy"
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tiring easily or being fatigued
  • Increased crankiness or irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • An increased heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches and soreness

Fortunately, GAD responds well to treatment, especially if there is early intervention. Psychotherapy (Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy and Response Prevention therapies) has been found to be very effective in treating GAD. Medication may also be necessary in some instances, and our clinicians will work in collaboration with psychiatrist to provide holistic care.

If the above mentioned symptoms apply to you, here are some tips and tricks to effectively manage your anxiety.

4 tips to manage your anxiety:

Regular exercising

Exercise releases endorphins (i.e., feel-good chemicals) which enhances your sense of well-being

Engaging with a healthy diet

Eating a well balanced meal, and eating at regular timings.

Avoiding caffeine and alcohol

These beverages although enjoyable may catalyse feelings of anxiety or impede on your circadian rhythm which may influence anxiety levels.

Deep breathing techniques

This sends a message to the brain to calm down and relax. Especially when you are experiencing, increased heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Deep breathing sends the message to relax.