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Upon leaving teaching Jenny was officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist as have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Depression.

Once she learnt what these labels meant, she quickly realised that her anxiety and depression was not a modern phenomena. Jenny's GAD began in childhood and grew, because of her facial difference, personality and life experiences.

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So what exactly is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

To put it simply, it is excessive worrying and stress, about any type of situation. This worry can come on quickly or be gradual, but continues for a long period of time (at least six months). This excessive worrying cannot be controlled and it affects a person's work and life, their concentration, energy and sleep.

This diagram explains well the difference between normal worrying and GAD.

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Symptoms of GAD:
  • excessive and unreasonable worry over events or activities, such as work, school or health
  • excessive worry about their capacity and confidence to deal with situations
  • inability to control or stop their worrying
  • feelings of apprehension
  • muscle tension
  • restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • being easily fatigued
  • tension headaches
  • problems with concentration or having their mind go blank
  • irritability
  • shallow, uneven breathing
  • increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • sweating
  • feeling nauseous or sick
  • trembling and shaking
  • sleep disturbance (such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep).
For Jenny GAD gives her overwhelming negative thoughts, and it affects her physically, as in stomach problems, skin issues, sweating, heart palpitations, a being totally overwhelmed feeling, panic, irritability, headaches and poor sleep (so feeling exhausted).

Research has found that GAD develops from a range of individual and environment factors, such as family history, personality traits, trauma and stressful events.

Jenny has her GAD pretty much under control now, but when it was severe and uncontrolled (there are some specific events in her memory going back to childhood), she would handle the stressful situations by first of all having negative thinking about anticipating the event. Then her anxiety symptoms would start in her body. Jenny's negative thoughts would then worsen and no positive thought could eradicate them. Jenny would then avoid the situation whereby all of her symptoms would instantly subside. If she was involved in an event that did not go to plan then the negative thoughts would also invade, and she  would replay the situation over and over again in her head, beating herself up psychologically over what she should have done.

Jenny like this diagram and thinks it shows her GAD well.
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So how is GAD generally treated?

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), structured problem-solving strategies, and other talking therapies
  • Anxiety management strategies e.g. exercise, diet, self-talk, slow breathing, staying in the moment...
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Medication (if necessary)
  • Support from family and friends, and/or support groups
Jenny was able to rein in her GAD so it no longer controls her, by seeing a psychologist, learning strategies to control her thinking and learning about self-care (relaxation and exercise). She also went on anti-depressants which help control the chemicals in her brain.

For more information these websites are useful:
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/gad
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/Generalised-anxiety-disorder


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Jenny has suffered from severe depression where she was suicidal and planning how she was going to carry out the act, 
to bouts of post-natal depression, and periods of depression where she felt like she was drowning in a sense of  hopelessness.

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So what is depression?

Depression is more than feeling sad. You must be feeling sad or miserable most of the time for more than two weeks. Along with these feelings there needs to be a loss in interest or pleasure in usual activities. Thirdly, the person must have experienced several symptoms from each of the following categories below.

You may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, you've felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and have also experienced several of the signs and symptoms across at least three of the categories below.

It’s important to remember that we all experience some of these symptoms from time to time, and it may not necessarily mean you're depressed. Equally, not everyone who is experiencing depression will have all of these symptoms.

Behaviour:

  • not going out anymore
  • not getting things done at work/school
  • withdrawing from close family and friends
  • relying on alcohol and sedatives
  • not doing usual enjoyable activities
  • unable to concentrate

Feelings:
  • overwhelmed
  • guilty
  • irritable
  • frustrated
  • lacking in confidence
  • unhappy
  • indecisive
  • disappointed
  • miserable
  • sad

Thoughts:
  • 'I’m a failure.'
  • 'It’s my fault.'
  • 'Nothing good ever happens to me.'
  • 'I’m worthless.'
  • 'Life’s not worth living.'
  • 'People would be better off without me.'

Physical:
  • tired all the time
  • sick and run down
  • headaches and muscle pains
  • churning gut
  • sleep problems
  • loss or change of appetite
  • significant weight loss or gain

For Jenny the depression was like living in a black tunnel and not being able to see the end, or the light seemed so far away that it couldn't be reached. Jenny looked at those lists above and she could tick most of them.

Like GAD, causes of depression are life events, family history, personality, trauma, and changes in the brain chemicals.

Depression can be treated in a similar way to GAD:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and other therapies
  • Diet, Sleep, Exercise
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Medication
  • Support from family and friends, and/or support groups
Like Jenny's GAD, she now has her depression under control. She knows the warning negative thoughts that start in her head and can quickly spiral her into a depressive episode. When these start Jenny questions them and uses her logical thought processes. She will do some self-care strategies as well. Jenny can still go low but usually only for a few days, and then she is okay again.

For more information these websites are useful: