If to worry is to be human, to worry excessively is to try to be superhuman, that is, to be able to anticipate, prevent and deal with anything and everything that could possibly go wrong at anytime. However worry gets false credit for being helpful, and many previous believers can attest to the liberation that comes from learning to reject its hold over them using a talking therapy such as CBT.
Worry appears to have been around for as long as modern humans. The Roman poet Ovid (43BC – AD17), told us that “happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all”. Everyone knows what it’s like to worry, often about things like health, money or family, as occasional anxiety is a normal part of life and people experiencing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) tend to worry about the same things as people without GAD. However, the worry experienced is persistent and excessive. Worrying about one thing leads quickly and easily to worrying about something quite different. As a result, worriers can get caught up in a whirlwind of thoughts about catastrophes that might happen, meaning GAD is characterised by a crushing sense that disaster is just over the horizon.
Once worriers are caught in this whirlwind, they often feel as if they can’t stop. The worries come at them thick and fast, and seem uncontrollable; sometimes circulating at the back of their minds, coming into sharper focus every now and then.
Seeing a qualified professional to determine an accurate diagnosis is key, here’s what professionals look for to help determine if someone’s worry and anxiety are related to GAD:
Of course, you may not have full-blown GAD, but you may still worry a lot. Although the formal diagnostic criteria are helpful, they are essentially a guide. Many people with disabling and distressing experiences of worry fall outside the diagnostic framework. When deciding to seek help, think honestly about how difficult it is to feel any sense of calm, comfort, and reassurance around your worry. Untreated, GAD often get worse with age as weighed down by the stresses of life over a long period, it takes less and less stress to trigger acute bouts of anxiety. Worriers may simply just get used to carrying the burden, but the impact on their lives is immense.
The good news is that GAD can be successfully treated using CBT, focusing on the factors that keep worry going:
Worry is how many of us respond to uncertainty, and it can be changed. Don’t be a habitual worrier all your life, take the first step to free yourself from excess worry and make an appointment for an initial conversation with me, to see if CBT for GAD could help you.