When is worry too much?

Everyone experiences anxiety at certain points in their lives. It’s natural, for example, to fret about your finances while in the midst of buying or selling your home, or to feel stressed about an upcoming presentation at work. Such worries are healthy and useful reactions that spur us on to perform well and avoid unpleasant situations.

However, some Canadians find themselves plagued by overwhelming anxiety that goes beyond healthy limits. According to Dr. Richard Earle of the Canadian Institute of Stress, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a medical condition defined by excessive, unrealistic worry that lasts for six months or longer.

"At least five per cent of people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime," says Dr. Earle, "yet many don’t seek help because they fear others will see their condition as a weakness."

It is simply not true that their condition is a weakness. In most cases, GAD is believed to be related to the levels of two naturally occurring brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine.

"The good news is there are treatments available that have been proven to help patients get back to full, happy lives," says Dr. Earle. "Dual-acting anti-depressants such as Effexor XR, act on both brain chemicals and Effexor XR has been shown to be effective in treating GAD. In addition, talk therapy can help people re-frame their problems and see them from a different perspective."

How do you know if your worries are symptoms of GAD? Ask yourself these questions:

• Have you worried excessively or been anxious about several things over the past six months?
• Do you find it difficult to control these worries or do they interfere with your ability to focus on what you are doing?
• When you were anxious over the past six months, did you feel restless or on edge most of the time?
• Do you feel tense or irritable most of the time?
• Do you often feel tired, weak or easily exhausted?
• Have you had difficulty concentrating or find your mind going blank?
• Have you had difficulty sleeping (difficulty falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, early morning wakening or sleeping excessively)?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, it’s possible that you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder. It’s important to see your doctor and start on the path toward peace of mind.

For more information about anxiety, you can also visit www.mypeaceofmind.ca.