If you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) then you’re basically a long time worrier. People with GAD have spent such a long time worrying that it becomes a habitual part of their thinking style. They simply can’t help it, it has become as automatic to them as blinking. More often than not they aren’t even aware to the extent of their worry. I had GAD for about eight years of my life and I was absolutely gobsmacked when I began to learn how much I was worrying. People can worry about anything, some of my favourites were worrying about the slightest of strange bodily sensations, my parents or partner dying, ending up on a psychiatric ward and never making recovery. Everytime I experienced a blip in my recovery my first thought would be “oh no, here it is again”, “what if ‘it’ doesn’t go this time?”, “I’ll never be free of anxiety!” and I was off, probably for the best part of week! Specific ‘worry periods’ tend to run concurrent amongst the general GAD crowd and autumn tends to be a particularly ‘worrying’ time. The low mood that naturally follows the end of summer and the start of the dark gloomy nights is often enough to start the GAD sufferer off with the annual mind chatter, “oh no, it’s here again”, “I didn’t feel so well this time last year!”, “what if I sink into a dark spell again?”, “I’ll never be free of this”…….and they’re off again!
Thoughts can spiral ridulously out of control in a matter of seconds and I can remember a particular occasion back in 2002 when I was making good progress in my recovery. It was a very fast thought progression which happened one morning. Upon waking from a pleasant dream involving me stroking my long deceased black and white cat George I was struck with a strong feeling of love and comfort which immediately lifted my morning mood. Instantly, this love transpired to thoughts about my parents and my love for them. From here presented the worrisome thoughts “what if they were to die?”, “how could I cope with bereavement?” and off I was again. I caught those particular thoughts right at that moment, saw them for what they were and I detached from them before they had the time and power to shock me. This takes time and practise and one must have built up a reasonable level of confidence within themselves before such a dismissal of thoughts is believed by the cunning brain. When people continuously think in worrisome ways they constantly shock their nervous system and continue to strengthen these deeply ingrained negative thought patterns, these take time to break.
Nothing good ever comes from worry – fact!
If I could stamp one piece of advice on your forehead then it would be this; ‘nothing good ever comes from worry!’ This is a realisation that one day you must 100% believe before you can begin making lasting change. Worry only ever brings misery and suffering. If we are faced with a problem then we should either find a solution or if no solution is readily available then try to view the problem from a least painful point of view, but we should NEVER worry. It is important that whenever you catch yourself worrying that you remind youself of the fact that, ‘nothing good ever comes from worry!’
People with GAD are always imagining that something bad will happen to them (‘what if I get too anxious to work?’ ‘what if I never get better?’, ‘what if I get stuck in traffic?’, ‘what if I’m late?’, ‘what if I end up in a psychiatric hospital?’ etc etc). ‘What if’ thinking accounts for the vast majority of worry but worry can also take on many other disguises and it’s important you learn how to spot them.
The only way to rid yourself of GAD is to eliminate the worry, but this is not easy. The worry has become so ingrained that ‘catching’ yourself worrying takes practice and patience and even then, disengaging from the thoughts is not easy. This is because the thoughts hold so much power over you that you naturally feel compelled to give them your attention and to do the opposite takes persistence and courage. A good therapist will prepare you well for this and provide you with the necessary tools for success. Personally, overcoming my GAD was a very rewarding experience and even to this day I still use the tools I acquired back then in my everyday life, particularly my mindfulness tools!