Could you have an anxiety disorder?

When constant worry takes over your life

one sad woman sitting on the floor near a wall and holding her head in her hands
How to Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder
If you can't remember the last time you didn't feel worried and your anxiety transfers from one thing to the next, rather than being triggered by one type of situation, you may have a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). This long-term condition affects around 1 in 20 adults in Britain, with women slightly more at risk than men.

Psychiatrist Dr Ankur Saraiya says: "People with this disorder experience anxiety about several different areas of their life at once, and may feel anxious for most of the day, if not all day, every day. Their worry is so constant, it affects their ability to function day-to-day.

"The best treatment is a combination of medication, which can help prevent anxiety, and psychotherapy which can help a person understand the triggers and why they're having the anxiety in the first place."

If constant anxiety is affecting your quality of life, see your GP who may be able to help. In the meantime, here are a few self-help techniques to try.

Breathe and relax
Deep breathing, yoga or meditation can make a huge difference. Relaxation techniques enable you to re-focus the mind and see past the fear trigger, allowing you to calm yourself in moments of anxiety. If you can't find a class near you, buy a book or search for programmes online to help you get started.

Stay active
Exercise not only causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that improve your mood, it also requires concentration, which in turn can help to shift the focus away from your fears. Combine it with a healthy, reduced sugar diet. Sweet foods lead to a sugar rush, but the inevitable crash that comes afterwards can increase feelings of anxiety.

Stop drinking and smoking
If you're prone to anxiety it's important to stop smoking and cut back on alcohol. Instead of helping to calm you down, they will only exacerbate your anxiety in the long run.

Distract yourself
Feeling fearful can make it almost impossible to think clearly, particularly given the physical symptoms like a racing heart or hot and cold sweats. And when you can't think clearly, the subject of your fears can often seem much worse than they are in reality. When you start to feel the signs, try distracting yourself, whether that means taking a walk, visualising a safe place, or phoning a friend. Once the physical symptoms have eased, you'll be better placed to see the problem clearly.

Face your fears
Distraction and relaxation techniques can help you to work through your feelings, but avoiding situations that scare you can eventually prevent you from doing things you need or want to do. If that's the case, it may be time to face your fear. As tough as it may be the first time, embracing your fears will make them easier to cope with on each occurrence. Take things one step at a time and reward yourself when you have overcome a problem, no matter how small.

Talk it over
Talking therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy are designed to help people to cope more effectively with their anxieties and fears, so if you're struggling, ask your doctor to refer you. But even talking with friends, partners or family members can make a difference, so don't be afraid to share. There are also many support groups and self-help organisations where you can get help and advice for free, including the Mental Health Foundation, Anxiety UK and FearFighter. Sometimes simply talking to others with the same problems can be a huge help.

Three natural products to help beat anxiety:

Holland & Barrett Valerian (60) Capsules, £9.99

Nytol Herbal Simply Sleep & Calm Elixir (100ml), £5.99

Diomed Herbals Stressless (75) Herbal Tablets, £6.99

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