From time to time everyone has temporary feelings of anxiety or worry, but you may have an anxiety disorder if persistent worry and anxiety interferes with your life. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition where you have excessive anxiety most days. If your anxiety makes you feel ill and tired, and affects your day-to-day life, you probably have GAD.
Generalised anxiety disorder is when you worry or feel anxious most of the time and these feelings last for at least six months. It is a real illness and, although there is no cure in Western medicine, it can be successfully treated. It is a long-term illness that can last for many years before it is diagnosed.
Generalised anxiety disorder is often present with another mental illness such as depression or panic disorder.
You will often have the following symptoms:
Restlessness and difficulty relaxing; feeling tired most of the time; finding it difficult to concentrate on any one task; a tendency for your mind to go blank; feeling irritable most of the time; and muscle tension, sometimes leading to muscle pains. The tension can also make you feel shaky, and cause poor sleep (insomnia) – you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Anxiety disorder can also cause physical symptoms: headaches; pains in your joints; feeling breathless; palpitations (when you can feel your heart beating too fast); tightness or pain in your chest; dry mouth; sweating; flushing; nausea; stomach pains and diarrhoea.
Western Medical View
The cause of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is not known in Western Medicine, but is thought to be linked to certain factors, such as your genetic make-up. Some people have a more anxious personality than others which can run in families. Someone with GAD may have experienced a difficult childhood. People who have been abused or have experienced a traumatic event as a youngster, such as the death of a parent or close friend, are more likely to be anxious when they become older. Those who have had a problematic familial or marital relationship, have been bullied or raped, or have survived a disaster are more likely to develop long-term anxiety. Women are twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder. It is also more common if you are unemployed, a housewife or are separated, divorced or widowed. The chemical make-up in your brain may be another factor that contributes to the development of anxiety. Brain chemicals such as serotonin or noradrenaline affect your mood and thinking. Generalised anxiety disorder may be associated with altered levels of these chemicals.
There are a number of options for the long-term treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) that can help you get better and stay better. These include psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), drug treatment (e.g. paroxetine ) and self-help.
You should discuss the choice of treatment with your GP who may recommend a combination of psychological therapy and drug treatment. If you have generalised anxiety disorder, it’s very likely that you’ve already had another mental health problem, such as depression or schizophrenia (a major psychiatric disorder).
Chinese Medical View
Anxiety depletes Kidney-Qi (kidney’s essential energy, needed by the organ to perform its functions) and makes Qi (the body’s essential energy) to go down rather than circulate in a balanced manner. Depending on the state of the Heart, situations of chronic anxiety will have different effects on the body’s Qi. If the Heart is weak, it will cause Qi to become Empty-Heat: disruptive hot energy and a lack of cooling energy.
Anxiety weakens Kidney-Yin (in the Yin & Yang system of medical theory, this means an insufficiency of the cooling bodily fluids) and gives rise to Empty-Heat of the Heart which will manifest in such symptoms as palpitations, insomnia, night-sweating, a dry mouth, flushing and a rapid pulse. Liver-Blood deficiency and Gall Bladder deficiency can also cause anxiety.
Clinical trials have shown that acupuncture has a proven therapeutic effect against hypertension* and according to CM theory, Chinese Medicine has a similar effect on anxiety. According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture can be prescribed to calm the mind and relieve anxiety; but depending on the diagnosis, might have to be combined with certain Chinese herbal prescriptions to: strengthen the mind; to resolve the unbalanced movement of Qi and its unsettling effect on the Heart and mind; to nourish the Heart, lungs and blood; and, alleviate a deficiency of energy in the Liver, Spleen and Gall Bladder.
Lifestyle advice for the prevention and treatment of Anxiety
Avoid excessive thinking and emotional strain. Reduce the consumption of hot-energy foods and drinks (especially alcohol) as this leads to Fire and will easily upset the mind. Damp-producing foods can cause Phlegm, which when combined with Fire disturbs the mind. Avoid drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, LSD and others, as they can contribute to mental-emotional problems.
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.
+ *CLINICAL TRIALS:
Dan Y. [Assessment of acupuncture treatment of hypertension by ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.] Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 1998, 18(1):26-27 [in Chinese].
Iurenev AP et al. [Use of various non-pharmacological methods in the treatment of patients in the early stages of arterial hypertension.] Terapevticheskii Arkhiv, 1988, 60(1):123-126 [in Russian].
Wu CX et al. Scalp acupuncture in treating hypertension in the elderly. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1997, 8(3):281-284.
Yu P et al. Clinical study on auricular pressure treatment of primary hypertension. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1991, 2(1):37-40.
Cai QC et al. [The regulatory effects of acupuncture on blood pressure and serum nitrogen monoxide levels in patients with hypertension.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1998, 18(1):9-11 [in Chinese].