What is GAD and can therapy help?

Defining GAD

GAD stands for generalised anxiety disorder. We all have worries at times, as part of normal brain activity. GAD however, is a condition that leaves the person with excessive anxiety and worry in the form of apprehensive expectations.

For a diagnosis to be made according to one of the major mental health diagnostic systems, DSM (2013), the person must have difficulties controlling worry for more days, than not, for at least six months.

In adults, there needs to be a minimum of three further symptoms such as: restlessness, easily fatigued, concentration, irritability, tension and sleep problems.

The condition causes significant distress and disruption to social, work and other areas of life.

In children, there is a reduced number of symptoms required for diagnosis.

Cognitive behavioural therapy for GAD

There are a number of validated treatment programmes, which have been used to help people with GAD. Wilkinson, Meares and Freeston, put forward some interesting ideas (2011).

They note that there are several aspects of the training which help people with GAD to live differently and overcome their condition.

These include: worry awareness training, to allow the sufferer to identify their worry patterns and learn about the nature of worry.

They also teach key skills in recognizing and changing different types of worry and the related beliefs which maintain worry.

They help people to deal differently with patterns of avoidance, or reactivity, which frequently prevent a person who worries too much, from facing their problems effectively. Without this awareness and habit change the person is likely to keep ruminating.

Their programme also recognises important issues, which people who worry to excess, struggle with, such as coping with uncertainty. It teaches the person how to better tolerate uncertainty over time.

Most programmes available to treat GAD, use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help people overcome their symptoms.

For it to work best, CBT requires the person to take an active role, in addressing their excessive worry and coping patterns. It can have positive benefits for people who experience this debilitating condition.

If you are affected by GAD and need cognitive behavioural therapy help, please make an enquiry to discuss this further, via the 'Contact us' page.

Related reading:

Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders V. 2013. American Psychiatric Association.

CBT for worry and generalised disorder. Wilkinson, Andrew; Meares, Kevin; Freeston, Mark. 2011. Sage publications.