Generalised Anxiety Disorder and How Therapy Helped Me.

Today’s post is a little more personal, I’m discussing my own mental health. Now when I’ve done health-related posts I tend to post more about other people’s experiences than myself. But I want to start putting my own personal experiences out there.

I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is where you experience anxiety about lots of different types of aspects of your life. So, for example, it differs to social anxiety which is anxiety around people and social situations. I get anxiety about pretty much everything in my life.
I didn’t realise I had this disorder for several years until my GP mentioned a lot of the physical symptoms I experience COULD be anxiety, and not just related to, at that time, what they thought was IBS (which I later found out I had a more serious condition, but that’s for another post). He suggested a form of talking therapy to help me because it was really affected my everyday life, and I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a psychotherapy, where you essentially challenge your own thoughts and negative behaviour patterns to treat some mental health disorders.

When I started attending therapy, this was when I got my ‘official’ diagnosis for my mental health. It turned out my GAD was associated with worry around health, work, my own self-image, and the way other people view me. Now, I’m not awkward with social situations, I’m a very chatty, forward, comfortable person with people. However, I do worry about what people think of me, which spirals my anxiety. That’s one example anyway.

Now I get very physical symptoms when my anxiety kicks in. I panic, get heart palpitations, my breathing gets deeper and harder. I also get hot or sweaty, shaky and have had several panic attacks throughout the years. I also get angry and irritable, which is probably the worst for me, I hate myself when I act out with anger because it’s not the person I want to be. My therapist taught me about the psychology around this spiral of worry, and why it affects me so much, and why I get such drastic symptoms.

It turned out that the beginning of this “spiral of worry” starts with deep-rooted thoughts that you have of yourself, or other people, based on your past experiences (your childhood for example). I’ll not get into my past in this post, but essentially, these deep-rooted thoughts are extremely hard to change in people. So, the aim of the therapy was to intersect the ‘cycle’ before it became a cycle, by recognising when your thoughts are irrational.

Deep rooted thought (nobody likes me) -> an action or event causes worry (someone doesn’t reply to a message) -> worry starts, symptoms start -> symptoms cause release of cortisol a hormone/ fight or flight response -> more severe symptoms and panic attacks -> more cortisol, and spirals down.

The aim of my therapy was to intersect my worry cycle at the action or event, before I start to worry, by challenging my own deep-rooted thoughts with more rational ones. I was taught to question my thoughts. Why would this person not like me? Would it mean I don’t like someone if I acted that way? Things like that. Now, I do still have anxiety, I’m not cured. But this has really helped me with smaller situations that would really affect me. And I do still spiral and experience bad anxiety over some situations, but it has really improved.

My therapist also suggested practising mindfulness, which I’ve found extremely helpful, and I feel like it’s really opened my eyes to the beauty of the world and made me a more empathetic person. Yoga is one thing that helped me with mindfulness, as well as being aware of everything around me when dog walking... the sights, smells, sounds. 

So, although, I do still have GAD because it’s my brain chemistry and I’ll probably have it for life. Since therapy, I have been able to change a lot of my behaviours that made things worse for me, I have some great coping mechanisms… and I’ve been able to stop taking medication for my mental health. For me, that’s a huge plus. 

I know therapy doesn't work for everyone, but it's always worth a try. You can contact local talking therapies free of charge. It can also be a long process, but if you're willing to put in the work each week, and do your homework (yep, you get homework too), then you should start to notice improvements over time! If you have experiences with therapy, let me know, I love to hear about other peoples thoughts! 

*Stock images from Pixabay & Indoindians

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