General anxiety disorder, also known as GAD, is a common mental health condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry about everyday life events. People with GAD find it difficult to control their worry and cannot easily distract themselves from it.

woman experiencing general anxiety disorder

Symptoms of GAD can include:

  • Constant worrying about day-to-day things like health, money, family, work or school performance
  • Feeling restless, tense or on edge or general nervousness
  • Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems like trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or soreness
  • Sweating or trembling

GAD often develops gradually over time without an identifiable trigger. Risk factors include a family history of anxiety disorders, a stressful life event like divorce or bereavement, or a past traumatic experience. The exact cause is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is considered an effective treatment for GAD. CBT helps people recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that may lead to excessive worrying. Key CBT techniques for GAD include:

  • Cognitive restructuring – Learning to identify, challenge and replace unhelpful thoughts with more balanced perspectives.
  • Exposure therapy – Gradually facing anxiety-provoking situations to reduce avoidance and learn new coping skills.
  • Relaxation training – Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to manage physical anxiety symptoms.
  • Problem-solving skills – Learning strategies to address real problems causing worry in productive ways instead of dwelling on possible negative outcomes.

Medication may also help control GAD symptoms if cognitive behavioral approaches are not enough. Common prescription medications used include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, good sleep habits and avoiding caffeine can provide additional support in managing the disorder.

EMDR for Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment Guide

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a psychotherapy technique used to relieve symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders. Research has shown EMDR can also be an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

How EMDR Works for GAD

During an EMDR session for GAD, the therapist will help the client focus on distressing thoughts, images or feelings related to their anxiety while simultaneously stimulating both sides of the brain through bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping. This stimulation is thought to help the brain reprocess and reconsolidate traumatic or distressing memories in a healthy way.

Over the course of multiple EMDR sessions, the therapist will guide the client through recalling anxiety-provoking memories and images while applying bilateral stimulation. This is believed to weaken the emotional intensity and vividness of the negative thoughts and feelings tied to those memories. The goal is to install more adaptive thoughts and beliefs that help diminish anxiety over time.

Internal Family Systems Model for Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is a form of psychotherapy that can help clients overcome generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) by addressing underlying parts of the psyche that drive worrying thoughts and behaviors. This guide outlines how IFS therapy applies to GAD.

Core Concepts of IFS

IFS is based on the theory that the mind is comprised of differentiated subpersonalities called “parts,” each with its own beliefs, emotions and motivations. Parts can be either protectors that try to shield the individual from perceived threats, or exiles that hold painful memories and feelings. The goal in IFS is for the client to access an intuitive “Self” part and use its leadership to reconcile conflicts between protective and exiled parts.

IFS Application to GAD

Clients with GAD often have protective parts that believe worrying is necessary to prevent future harm. Exiled parts may contain feelings of vulnerability, lack of control or past trauma that fuel worry. Through guided self-inquiry, the therapist helps clients get in touch with protective and exiled parts as distinct internal voices, acknowledge their good intentions, and allow Self-leadership to emerge.

When to seek additional help for GAD

For some people, CBT and medication are enough to successfully manage GAD symptoms. But for others, more intensive or specialized treatment may be needed. Seeking help from a mental health professional is recommended if:

  • Worry and anxiety are severely impacting work, relationships or daily functioning.
  • Symptoms do not improve after 6 to 8 weeks of CBT and/or adequate medication trials.
  • Anxiety and worry occur most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Panic attacks develop alongside persistent worrying.
  • Depressive symptoms emerge along with anxiety.
  • Substance abuse issues surface as a way to self-medicate anxiety.

More extensive treatment options may include inpatient or intensive outpatient programs, specialized therapies like acceptance commitment therapy, or joining a GAD support group. Consulting a psychiatrist is also advised if medication does not provide relief or side effects are problematic. With the right treatment approach, even severe GAD is very treatable. Seeking help is encouraged for anyone struggling with excessive worry.

Anxiety and GAD Therapy in London and Online in Ontario

If you’d like to explore GAD therapy or counselling for Anxiety, we have therapists ready to help and support you. Book online or contact us to be matched with a therapist in London, ON or virtually anywhere in Ontario

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