Overcoming Generalized Anxiety

Best Tips For Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Writen By: Sana Ihsan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: December 13, 2023

Have you ever been stuck in a loop of worries, unable to find the exit to calmness? You may be a victim of generalized anxiety disorder. So, are you ready to take your first step towards overcoming generalized anxiety and reclaiming your peace of mind? Well, if that sounds like you, then stick around till the end to find some useful information that will help you with generalized anxiety.

GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, is a mental health condition that triggers fear, constant worry, and a feeling of being overwhelmed. According to a 2013 study, sensitivity to opposing emotions, emotional hyperreactivity, and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as worrying to deal with intense emotional changes are all linked to the development of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. This condition involves too many unrealistic concerns about everyday matters like work, health, or daily tasks. Both kids and adults can feel the effects of it.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into this topic and try to understand generalized anxiety disorder in a better manner. We will further talk about its symptoms, causes, and effects and provide practical information about the treatment. Whether seeking reassurance, validation, or actionable strategies, this article serves as a resourceful guide on your journey toward managing and overcoming generalized anxiety.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic psychiatric condition characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry and anxiety that extends beyond the scope of normal daily concerns. Individuals with GAD experience persistent distressing worries lasting for at least six months and often lacking a visible trigger.

This 2016 study suggests that generalized anxiety disorder is linked to emotional hyperreactivity, emotional contrast sensitivity, and ineffective worry-based coping strategies.  

Another 2017 study suggests that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is related to sustained threats and that combining the DSM-5 and the National Institutes of Mental Health Research Domain Criteria classification systems can provide a more comprehensive understanding of GAD. This 1998  study further suggests that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is associated with intolerance of uncertainty, beliefs about worry, poor problem orientation, and cognitive avoidance.

Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed according to the criteria mentioned in the DSM-5. Your healthcare professional or therapist may follow the following procedure:

  1. Conduct a physical exam to rule out other causes of anxiety. 
  2. Blood or urine tests may be performed if an underlying medical condition is suspected
  3. Ask detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history
  4. Psychological questionnaires are often used to gather additional information

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

In many cases, diagnosing GAD can be challenging as it resembles many other mental health conditions as well. Therefore, your therapist will often look for the following common symptoms: 

  • You may have GAD if your constant worrying really messes up with your daily life, job, and hanging out with friends
  • Always expecting the worst and stressing out
  • When you feel like you cannot stop your worries
  • If you’ve been worried almost every day for at least 6 months straight
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Feeling lightheaded or out of breath
  • Tense headaches
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Fear of danger

Prevalence of Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

This 2021 research about the lifetime prevalence and effects of generalized anxiety disorder shows that the overall prevalence of GAD is 2.3%, with women being more likely to have GAD (3.6%) than men (0.6%). This 2020 study also shows that the rate of generalized anxiety diagnoses and symptoms has been increasing in the UK, particularly among younger people and women.

Difference Between Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People often experience worry from time to time, and it’s a normal part of being human. In dangerous situations, worry can be a helpful response that triggers the “fight or flight” stress reaction. However, when excessive worry starts to disrupt your daily life, it could indicate a mental health condition. This may be diagnosed as a generalized worry disorder (GWD) or another type of worry-related condition. Distinguishing between normal worry and GWD can be tricky due to their similarities. So, keep reading as we guide you in understanding and distinguishing between regular and persistent worry and GAD.

Regular Worry:

  • Your worry doesn’t mess up your daily life or duties.
  • You can keep your worries in check. While unpleasant, your worries don’t cause a lot of distress.
  • Your worries focus on a specific, small number of realistic concerns.
  • Your worrying doesn’t last too long.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

  • Your worry significantly messes up your job, activities, or hanging out with friends.
  • Your worry feels uncontrollable.  
  • Your worries are really upsetting and stressful.
  • You worry about all sorts of things and usually expect the worst.
  • You’ve been worrying almost every day for at least six months.

Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Some of the causing factors of generalized anxiety disorder can be: 

Biological Factors

  • Neurotransmitter imbalances, such as serotonin, may contribute to the development of generalized anxiety disorder
  • Altered brain chemistry, particularly in areas related to emotion processing and regulation, could be linked to increased susceptibility to GAD
  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with stress responses, maybe a cause and then a hurdle in overcoming generalized anxiety
  • Genetic predisposition also plays a role in GAD development, with anxiety traits possibly inherited within families, which makes overcoming generalized anxiety even harder

Environmental factors

  • Family dynamics, including role models provided by parents, shape the environment and impact anxiety development
  • Major life transitions can act as a trigger for generalized anxiety disorder
  • Socioeconomic factors, including financial stress and limited access to mental health resources 
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor sleep patterns, substance abuse, imbalanced nutrition, and high-stress environment 

Psychological Factors

  • Cognitive biases, such as the tendency to perceive normal situations as threatening, may cause chronic worry
  • Coping mechanisms of stress, whether through helpful or unhelpful methods, cause GAD
  • Persistent thoughts that always expect the worst outcomes contribute to the psychological causes of GAD
  • Intolerance of uncertainty in life can also be a cause of GAD

Personal triggers

  • Childhood trauma can contribute to anxiety disorders later in life
  • Interpersonal relationships and difficulties in maintaining or forming connections may contribute to emotional vulnerability and increased risk of GAD
  • GAD can develop in people who are reserved or inhibited as kids.
  • Individuals with high levels of stress related to academics or work pressure are more prone to GAD as this stress becomes a hurdle in overcoming generalized anxiety 

Social and Cultural Influences

  • Lack of social support networks may cause GAD
  • Cultural attitudes towards emotional and mental health may shape how individuals perceive and express anxiety within a society
  • Cultural stressors, unique to certain communities, can contribute to GAD
  • Unrealistic social standards and constant social comparisons can contribute to GAD development 

This 2019 research study suggests that several factors, including negative emotions, cognitive problems, and social issues, cause GAD.

Impact of Generalized Anxiety Disorder on Daily Life Functioning 

According to a 2012 study, GAD can significantly impair various aspects of life, including work productivity, interpersonal relationships, and healthcare utilization.

Here are some of the most common impacts of generalized anxiety disorder on your daily functioning.

  • Persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life makes individuals incapable of performing daily activities.
  • Experience physical symptoms like tension, restlessness, and fatigue 
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks due to anxious thoughts 
  • Occasionally, the extreme stress linked to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can set off other mental health issues, such as depression, and trap the sufferer in a anxiety and depression cycle.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns, including difficulty falling and staying asleep which increases the impact of your anxiety and depression cycle
  • Avoidance of situations or activities that trigger anxiety 
  • Difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships due to anxiety
  • Impaired productivity and efficiency in professional responsibilities   
  • Increased susceptibility to health issues due to chronic stress
  • Withdrawal from social activities and events
  • Negative effects on self-worth and self-esteem due to persistent anxiety 

This 2010 study also suggests that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety that can affect interpersonal relationships. 

Strategies for Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This 2015 study found that only 36.2% of people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) received treatment that met the standards of clinical practice guidelines. The study suggests that more efforts are needed to detect GAD and deliver evidence-based treatments. Key targets for improvement include regular follow-up of patients with GAD medication and access to psychotherapy in the primary care setting.

Coping with generalized anxiety disorder and managing worry might seem like a tough task, but we’ve got you. Here we have mentioned some effective lifestyle changes, therapies, medications, and treatments for overcoming generalized anxiety.

Lifestyle changes

  1. Exercise and Physical Activity
  • Include a mix of aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises.
  • Exercise outdoors for fresh air and exposure to nature
  • Find a workout buddy for interaction and social motivation
  • Start with activities that you enjoy and which fit your fitness and health conditions, because these things will prove helpful in overcoming generalized anxiety 
  1. Balanced Diet and Nutrition 
  • Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet
  • Plan meals ahead to make nutrition choices convenient or consult a nutritionist if required
  • Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and sweets to improve your overall health conditions, as they can be a great help in overcoming generalized anxiety
  • Mindful eating to create a positive relationship with food and reduce stress-related eating habits.
  1. Sleep routine
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily, as it can be a main factor in overcoming generalized anxiety.
  • If napping, keep it short and earlier in the day to prevent interference with nighttime sleep
  • Avoid consuming caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep
  • If sleep troubles persist, consult a healthcare professional for guidance
  1. Relaxation techniques 
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and engage in gentle yoga poses and stretches 
  • Systematically tense and then release muscle groups to reduce physical tension
  • Using calming scents like Lavender and listening to calming music can help overcome generalized anxiety 
  • Cultivate awareness of the present moment to avoid anxious thoughts

This 2019 research suggests that mindfulness and emotional intelligence can help improve psychological well-being in people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), while overthinking and worrying can worsen anxiety symptoms. 

Therapeutic Approaches

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy( CBT)
  • Recognize and understand harmful thought patterns contributing to anxiety
  • Implement strategies to modify behavior and break the cycle of anxiety
  • Develop effective problem-solving skills to reduce anxiety and help yourself overcome generalized anxiety 
  • Share your feelings with a therapist to feel better, as it can help you overcome generalized anxiety
  1. Reality Therapy
  • Emphasize the importance of dealing with current issues
  • Set achievable goals to promote positive behavior
  • Encourage a realistic understanding of your abilities and limitations
  • Shift the focus from blaming to problem-solving and taking positive steps
  1. Group Therapy
  • Benefit from a supportive environment with people facing similar challenges
  • Develop interpersonal and communication skills in a group setting
  • Establish a safe space where members can openly share their feelings to help themselves overcome generalized anxiety
  • Take help from a therapist who facilitates group discussions 
  1. Medication and Alternative Treatments 
  • Explore acupuncture as a complementary therapy for anxiety treatment
  • Explore practices like tai chi and meditation for stress reduction
  • Consider herbal remedies with professional guidance
  • Consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice, but common medications for generalized anxiety disorder include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline or benzodiazepines like lorazepam for short-term relief.

This 2020 study also proves that the most common treatment for generalized anxiety is taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Building Support Groups 

  1. Social support and Connection
  • Engage in group activities or clubs to meet new people and build a sense of community
  • Contribute to a cause you believe in, enhancing a sense of purpose and connection
  • Focus on building meaningful relationships
  • Share your feelings with trusted individuals to build understanding
  1. Joining support groups or communities
  • Utilize online platforms to connect with like-minded individuals
  • Join online support groups and communities
  • Understand the purpose and goals of each support group to find the best fit for your situation
  • Commit to actively participate in discussions and activities with the support group

This 2021 study found that 70% of people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) who received treatment found it helpful. However, only 34.6% of people with GAD have ever received treatment. The study suggests that more people with GAD should seek treatment and that clinicians should emphasize the importance of persistence in help-seeking.

Therapy-Providing Organizations

Here are some of the online platforms that provide therapy and support that can help you overcome generalized anxiety.

  • BetterHelp: Online therapy with licensed therapists and a variety of self-help resources
  • Talkspace: Online therapy with licensed therapists, group therapy, and psychiatry services
  • Talkiatry: Online psychiatry with medication management for mental health conditions

Self-Help Books

Here are some of the self-help books that can be beneficial for you in overcoming generalized anxiety.

Overcoming Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder by Kevin Mears and Mark Freeston

This book takes a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach to GAD, focusing on identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. 

Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Therapist Protocol by Matthew McK

This book is designed for therapists and counselors who work with individuals with GAD, but it can be very useful for individuals going through this condition as well.

Overcoming Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques by Helen Kennerly

This book is a self-help guide that teaches individuals with GAD how to use CBT techniques to manage their anxiety.

Practical Tips for Overcoming Generalized Anxiety 

Stress Management Techniques

  1. Time Management and Organization
  • Prioritize your tasks based on urgency to manage time effectively
  • Allocate specific time blocks for different tasks to enhance productivity 
  • Use calendars, to-do lists, or apps to organize tasks and meet deadlines
  1. Setting Realistic Goals
  • Define goals with clarity, making them specific to track progress effectively
  • Carefully analyze the time and the resources available to make sure the goals are achievable
  • Divide big goals into smaller and manageable tasks to make better progress
  1. Prioritising Self-Care
  • Set clear boundaries to protect personal time and avoid overcommitting. 
  • Engage in mindful activities and hobbies
  • Incorporate short breaks throughout the day to recharge and maintain focus

Cognitive Strategies

  1. Challenging Negative Thought Patterns
  • Recognize negative thoughts as they arise and begin challenging them
  • Challenge the negative thoughts by asking if they are based on evidence or assumptions
  • Actively replace negative thoughts with constructive ones 
  1. Developing Coping Statements
  • View challenges as opportunities for growth and learning
  • Use supporting and motivating language to encourage yourself through difficulties 
  • Remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities and cultivate an optimistic mindset 
  1. Reframing Perspective on Anxiety
  1. Recognize that experiencing anxiety is a normal part of human. 
  2. Embrace the idea that some level of uncertainty is natural in life
  3. Actively reframe negative thoughts about anxiety into more powerful ones

Creating a Personalized Coping Toolkit

  1. Grounding techniques and Distraction Methods
  • Managing worry in generalized anxiety disorder can be a task but you can use grounding objects and focus on them for distraction
  • Play games and engage in fun exercises to divert your attention
  • Count numbers, name alphabets, or other things to redirect your thoughts
  1. Journaling
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings to process your emotions
  • Reflect on your day, noticing accomplishments, challenges and areas for improvement
  • Write down things you are grateful for to create a positive outlook on life
  1. Creative Outlets and Hobbies
  • Engage in drawing, painting, and sculpting as a means of creative self-expression
  • Express yourself through dance or other forms of movements to enhance physical and emotional well-being
  • Engage in any hobby that you like and enjoy to refresh yourself
  1. Positive Affirmations
  • Embrace affirmations that foster a positive body image
  • Prioritize your emotional well-being and promote positive feelings and inner peace
  • Express gratitude for the positive aspects of life through affirmations

Physical Strategies

  • Maintain a good posture to prevent physical tension
  • Stay hydrated to support overall body functions
  • Take good care of your sleep routine and eat a balanced diet, as it can play a significant role in overcoming worry and anxiety 

Emotional Tips

  • Watch a funny movie, attend a comedy show, or engage in activities that engage genuine laughter
  • Learn and practice emotion regulation techniques
  • Perform random acts of kindness to create a sense of purpose and connection

Overcoming Barriers and obstacles

Here we are going to talk about how to overcome the barriers and obstacles that can further help us overcome generalized anxiety.

Addressing Stigma and Misconceptions

To overcome stigma, education and open communication are key. Promote understanding by sharing accurate information about mental health, challenging stereotypes, and fostering conversations that normalize seeking help. Creating a supportive environment reduces stigma and encourages individuals to prioritize their mental well-being without fear of judgment.

Overcoming Procrastination and Avoidance

 Overcoming procrastination involves breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Set realistic goals, create a structured routine, and use positive reinforcement. Identifying the root causes of avoidance, such as fear or anxiety, allows for targeted strategies to overcome these hurdles and make progress gradually.

Dealing with Setbacks and Relapses

Acknowledge setbacks as a natural part of the recovery process. Instead of viewing relapses as failures, see them as opportunities for learning and growth. Adjust goals if needed, seek support from friends, family, or professionals, and reevaluate coping strategies. Developing resilience helps navigate challenges on the journey to improved mental health.

Conclusion

In closing, overcoming generalized anxiety involves understanding and breaking the cycles that can lead to feelings of fear and depression. It’s about managing the challenges of generalized anxiety disorder. By learning how to cope, seeking support, and taking proactive steps, individuals can empower themselves to conquer the hurdles posed by anxiety and move towards a more balanced and resilient state of mind.

Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs)

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

1. What is the cycle of anxiety?

The cycle of anxiety is a recurring pattern where worry or fear triggers physical and emotional reactions, reinforcing the sense of threat. This heightened state can lead to more worry, perpetuating the cycle. Understanding and disrupting this cycle is crucial for managing anxiety.

2. How long does it take to get over anxiety?

The duration varies for each individual. Overcoming anxiety and fear is a gradual process that involves learning coping mechanisms, seeking support, and making lifestyle changes. Professional guidance can provide personalized strategies to navigate and manage anxiety effectively.

3. Can anxiety ever go away?

Many people think about how to overcome anxiety. While complete elimination may not be realistic, effective management is possible. With the right tools, support, and coping strategies, individuals can significantly reduce the impact of anxiety on their daily lives, leading to a reduced anxiety cycle and an improvement in overall well-being.

4. Why won’t my anxiety go away?

Persistent anxiety may be influenced by various factors. Identifying triggers, seeking professional help, and adopting coping strategies tailored to your needs can contribute to managing your depression and anxiety cycle.

5. What is the best treatment for generalised anxiety?

The best treatment often involves a combination of therapies. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness techniques, and lifestyle changes are commonly used. Medication may be prescribed in some cases. Tailoring the approach to individual needs yields the most effective results.

Digital interventions have been gaining popularity as a treatment for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), but their effectiveness compared to traditional treatments is still unclear.  This 2021 research found that digital interventions are not always effective for generalised anxiety disorder. More research is needed to compare digital interventions to other types of treatment.

6. How do you treat GAD without medication?

Non-medication approaches for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include therapy, such as CBT and exposure therapy, mindfulness practices, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments. These methods provide effective alternatives for managing GAD.

7. Does generalised anxiety disorder get worse with age?

GAD may not necessarily worsen with age, but its impact can vary. Proper management and coping strategies can mitigate the effects, emphasizing the importance of seeking support and employing effective techniques as needed.

8. What can I take naturally for anxiety?

Natural remedies for anxiety include practices like mindfulness, deep breathing, herbal supplements (like chamomile or valerian root), and maintaining a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise and a healthy diet. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before trying new treatments.

9. What is cognitive avoidance in GAD?

Cognitive avoidance in GAD refers to the tendency to avoid thoughts, feelings, or situations that trigger anxiety. While it may provide temporary relief, it reinforces the anxiety cycle. Therapy often addresses cognitive avoidance by helping individuals confront and reframe anxious thoughts.