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Anxiety and Excessive Worry

Do you consider yourself a worrier?

Do you consider worry to be a way to prepare for a catastrophic scenario?

Generalised Anxiety falls under the umbrella of Anxiety disorders and is one that is characterised by chronic and incontrollable worry. It is often associated with the progressive development of depression or another one of the anxiety disorders (panic, social, obsessive compulsive or specific phobias).

The main cognitive symptom of Generalised Anxiety is the experience of apprehensive and difficult to control worry about a variety of potential situations. Often, these come in the form of "What if..." thoughts, such as: "What if I fail at this!", "What if something bad happens to me or someone close to me!", What if I am not prepared to deal with this!" and many more.

Also, a large number of physical symptoms can accompany Generalised Anxiety , some of the most common are:

  • Fatigue

  • Restlessness

  • Irritability

  • Muscular tension

  • Difficulty staying asleep and insomnia

  • Irritable bowel and/or diarrhea

  • Need to urinate often

  • Dizziness

  • Stuttering

  • Visual difficulties

  • Headache

  • Pains and aches

Individuals who experience Generalised Anxiety often report being nervious or anxious as a child. The onset of the condition is progressive and gradual and studies suggest that the average age when people (females more than males) seek treatment at 20-25 years (Butler et al 1991; Rapee, 1991). Genetics seems to play little role in the development of the condition (estimated as 30%), however a higher association is found with family learning and exposure and personality traits like:

  • Neuroticism

  • Nervousness

  • Depression

  • Low negative emotions tolerance

  • Fearfulness

  • Overthinking

  • Catastrophic and all-nothing thinking

The goal of treatment of Generalised Anxiety is to lower the body's autonomic arousal to a reasonable level where cognitive and physiological symptoms of worry and anxiety are manageable and do not interfere in one’s daily choices. Interventions like relaxation and mindfulness training are important to stimulate the body release of nervious energy that is stored in the body (and to re-train physiological calmness and relaxation). Cognitive behavioural or other talking therapies help identify and confront behaviours and ways of thinking that maintain the worry problem. That may also involve examining personal beliefs about one self, examining fear of failure or making of mistakes, toleration of uncertainty, learning to regulate emotions and other psychological techniques for anxiety management without medication use.


Butler, G., Fennell, M., Robson, P. & Gelber, M. (1991). Comparison of behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 167-175.

Rapee, R. M. (1991). Psychological factors involved in generalised anxiety. Chronic anxiety: Generalised anxiety disorder and mixed anxiety-depression (pp-4-66). New York: Guilford Press

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