Generalized-Anxiety-Disorder During Mid-Life
"Let me assert my belief that the only thing that we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror that paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
F. D. Roosevelt, U.S. President
Anxiety and Mid-Life
Mid-life transition brings more than our share of fears
and worries. Health, financial insecurity, retirement
plans, kids leaving the nest and your concerns for
their future, interpersonal relationship, personal
concerns are but a few life-situations
At this stage of our life we feel vulnerable and
insecure; some of us may feel the stress and the solitude
as an enormous weight over their shoulders. It’s a
reason more for you to learn to appreciate this stage of
life as an opportunity for change, for renewal,
for meditation and for giving you the necessary
therapeutic tools to help you journey out of your
concerns – patiently and in all confidence.
Generalized anxiety does not have to be the outcome of
your mid-life years. You acknowledge your illness; let it
be a turn-around opportunity that could instigate
renewal into your life. You can do it; I believe in you!
"People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)feel
being wound up and unable to relax, they have
difficulty sleeping. They feel unable to let something
go, they have trouble concentrating, and feel light-
headed, their heart pounding, they constantly feel
worry, and anxiety.
Persons with GAD often live through days
experimenting exaggerated tension and worry, although
there is nothing really wrong. They live in anticipation
of a disaster; concerns over money, family, health, and
work run through their mind."
Living like this is hell…your thoughts create
negative feelings draining your energy and paralyzing
all your efforts of fight and resistance
against discouragement, against fear and against
defeatism as you anticipate your future to be disastrous.
A very ordinary challenge becomes an overwhelming issue
of concern you just simply cannot control; this goes on
and on for months (minimum six) and you wonder:
"Will I ever see the light at the end of this black tunnel?
Will I ever experience inner-peace?"
Education and therapy are obvious approaches for healing.
Understanding your illness, their signs and symptoms and
the impact on your personality; knowing that you’re not
the only person concerned with such an issue is a relief
One very important element you must always consider
seriously - do not identify yourself as the label of
your illness. You may have a weakness but you’re not
your illness. That illness may be controlled. You’re
much more than your weakness. This applies to your
job position, your social status... The first therapeutic
approach is to practice saying: "I have
an illness called …" rather than saying "
I am a…. (referring to your illness).
It’s your first item of control over your concern
restraining you from identifying yourself negatively.
You know you’re not your illness or concern; you can
now journey with ease further understanding the triggers
of generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) and working our
way towards a therapeutic approach most suitable for you.
All our anxiety concerns are related to unresolved
conflicting concerns – whether they would be relationship
related, personality related issues, or even hidden anger
related. In other words we learn to be afraid.
I already hear your confusion…
"Gisèle…why would I want to learn to fear?
Now, hold on for a second; I did mention:
"learn to fear"… but I did not mention
intentionally learning to fear...
which makes a difference!
There are three different learning approaches according
to behaviourists’ specialists:
You learn this process as early as childhood. When you were
a baby, you associated your mother to food. At school, you
associated the sound of the bell to recess or end of class
activities. You also associate the sound of an alarm to
danger or fire. Can you begin to understand how your anxiety
is triggered? An incident having happened a long time ago –
having had a strong emotional impact can be revived whenever
the associated object, person or incident reappears in your
life. E.G.: For a long time I associated the image of a man
as to be chauvinist, bossy, and unable to express kindness
and understanding; men only searched for one thing: being
served. This is the male image I have been raised to
contemplate throughout my whole youth period. Over
protective was my mother and through words and behaviour
the message she gave me for the longest time was: Men
could not be trusted. You can picture the rest of
Through trial and errors we learn to do things that
are rewarding to us and stop any behaviour that leads us
to painful or negative outcomes. Ex.: When I was out of
town for a holiday, one summer, in the big city of Ottawa,
I had been a victim of a car accident. Fortunately, my
car wasn’t a total wreck and I wasn’t injured, only
nervously shaken. The police officer convinced me with
insistence, (against my will at first), that I had to
take the wheel again or I would never have the courage
to drive. He was right. Many of our fears remain in our
subconscious mind because we never had the courage to
confront them right on the spot!
We also develop our fears modeling our parents’. Ex.: I
never understood why I have this phobic fear of cold
blooded animals. Any animal such as snakes, frogs, mice,
rats and worms ices my blood to paralysis. I cannot go
fishing or hunting for the same reasons. Don’t ask me to
climb a latter or drive on a high bridge my heart begins
to race! My mother suffered of these phobias and my
father had a fear of snakes. I’ve finally reasoned myself
to learn to swim, but never was able to dive in deep water!
Near drowning experiences was the reason explaining this
last described fear.
Do you begin to understand where your fears can be rooted?
Your story is unique therefore your triggers are linked to
your personal experiences. The inner journey experience
into your inner core could be helpful in helping you pinpoint
and confront those fears.
Take a break…Click the
following link, follow the procedure described in the
An experience is worth a thousand words.
Do it as often as you can, every day for five or 10
minutes to help you instigate inner peace.
An Experience is Worth a Thousand Words
Your fears are also related to your level of self-esteem.
Hey, we mentioned this briefly in our encounter called:
Low Self-Esteem. Click on the above link for
Self-esteem is the perception you’ve created about yourself
as a person and in regards to your gifts, personal traits,
qualities, abilities and past performances. Twisted thoughts
are consequential triggers of the generalized anxiety
I quote Dr Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.:
"Cognitive theories of anxiety focus on the way our thoughts
influence us. Here’s an example: picture yourself about to
give a big speech at school or at work. Imagine that you’re
thinking to yourself, "Okay, I can handle this. I’m well
prepared. Everyone here wants me to do well. Even if I make
a few mistakes, it won’t matter."
Now imagine that you’re in the same situation, but instead
you’re thinking, "I can’t do this. I’m going to throw up.
I’m going to pass out. The speech I prepared is pure
garbage. Everyone is just waiting for me to screw up. One
mistake and I’ll get an F (or get fired). It’s the same
speech! But there’s no question about which situation would
make you, me, or anyone else more anxious. It’s not the
reality that matters – it’s what we think about what happens
or what might happen."
In her book: Controlling Anxiety – Keep your Fears and
Worries at Bay, Dr. Johnston enumerates the following
13 twisted thinking approaches liable for triggering anxiety
into your daily life. With an ironic smile on your lips,
you may recognize some of those twisted thoughts to be yours
under the influence of anxiety:
unreasonable, irrational or even ridiculous thoughts
we turn a molehill into a mountain. It’s the end of
seeing everything as black or white. You’re either a
success or a failure. In reality the world is all
about shades of grey, we all make mistakes.
Disqualifying the positive:
happens when you ignore the good feedback and believe
You decide that what you feel reflects reality.
You feel like an idiot therefore you are one!
You act as if your worst fears will certainly come
true. You’re sure it will happen.
You give yourself a global label. I’m a failure.
Rather than saying: I blew this one, but I’ll do
better next time.
Assuming that others are reacting negatively to us –
even without any evidence.
You don’t give yourself enough credit for your
good qualities or accomplishments. You cannot
tell others anything good about yourself.
You take one event and your base reality on that.
taking everything personally and ignoring other factors.
You focus on one part rather than the whole.
"Should" and "have to" statements:
going overboard with should … and have to…
To conclude this section on the triggers of generalized
anxiety disorder, I quote Dr.Bob Murray Ph.D. from his
website article: Healing Depression Safely Without
Antidepressants describing the biological triggers
that impact a person concerned with anxiety disorders:
"Anxiety and panic attacks, which are part of the
depressive syndrome, can also be reactions to events
in adulthood that mimic those of childhood, even
subconsciously. Cortisol, a neurotransmitter related
to stress, is over-secreted, and other chemical
imbalances occur. At the same time, the very structure
of the brain is compromised. As a result of extreme
stress and childhood trauma, the hippocampus, for
example, doesn’t develop as it should – it literally
has fewer neurons. The result is difficulty in
handling in emotions and often a loss of short term
memory. Traumatic memories stored in the amygdala, a
walnut sized part of the central brain which stores
powerful emotions, flood the underdeveloped hippocampus.
This part of the brain is then unable to differentiate
properly between a real crisis or a minor glitch in the
present, or an experience in the past. The frontal
cortex, which is meant to sort out emotional transmissions
and decide appropriate actions, is also damaged."
THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES TO GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
To help you understand the feelings of an individual
suffering of generalized anxiety disorder picture
yourself sitting in a big box the size of your body,
and entirely covered with a thick yarn blanket. The box is
shut and you're in that box, eyes closed so you don't
see any possible ray of light peeking into the box.
It's dark; the space is narrow, the box is closed
you can't get out. Picture your feelings: the type and
the intensity; se your behaviour as these feelings increase;
as you pay closer attention to the messages of
your imagination, picture your reactions. Picture
yourself alone in the room, wanting to get out and no
one avaible to help you. Picture yourself in this situation
for at least one hour.
To be thinking about this makes me feel anxious! If you
have the courage to do this, I promise you will have
some good idea about generalized anxiety. Multiply
this feeling day in and day out!
Mental health professionals for the most part agree
that cognitive behavioural therapy and/or medication
can bring relief to candidates afflicted with
generalized anxiety disorder. As we mentioned in our
first encounter, anxiety-related symptoms can also
be medically related, a complete medical examination
is strongly recommended. Illnesses such as
hypoglycaemia, mitral valve prolapse, insomnia,
allergies, hyperthyroidism, premenstrual syndromes
or caffeine intoxication and even depression will have
generalized anxiety-like symptoms.
Human beings have at least two separate levels
mind (thoughts, feelings and values)
body ( tissues, blood, bones, muscles, molecules, atoms…)
I personally add a third one:
We are not just thoughts and flesh but all also spirit
Understanding both the medical and
psychotherapeutic approaches can help us appreciate
their respective positive outcome and help us accept the
best therapeutic approach to overcome our illness.
Medications are valuable but cannot give you insight
or heal relationships. On the other hand psychotherapists
and psychologists will assist you in your
interpersonal needs: Interpersonal Therapy or IPT)
or behavioural modification needs (Cognitive
Behavioural Therapy or CBT).
E.G.: The Interpersonal Therapy(IPT)approach will help you to:
1. Gather information and to clarify the nature of
your illness and life situation.
2. Concentrate on the ways personal relationships may
have contributed or affected your anxiety.
3. Develop communication skills and techniques for
dealing with disputes, role transitions and develop
ways to cope with one’s own interpersonal weak spots
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) will help you to:
1. Change negative or irrational cognition and
its associated behaviours
2. Help you identify distorted or distressed thoughts
and teach you the ways to counter or change them.
3. Teach you problem solving techniques where
behaviour modification is necessary. Do you begin
to see the difference between both and how
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be a
suitable therapeutic approach to help you overcome
In a case where depression is involved both medical
and talking therapy can be of help. The prerequisite for
this therapeutic approach is the need for talking, energy
According to mental health specialists, medical therapy
is advised only:
When anxiety symptoms are serious and interfering
with normal daily functioning
When psychotherapy and relaxation techniques can’t work
When the individual is overwhelmed by anxiety to the
point he cannot concentrate.
N.B.Anti-anxiety medication can create dependency and
become an issue or addiction.
Self-Help Methods for controlling your anxiety
(From Dr. Joni E. Johnston’s book Controlling Anxiety –
Keep your Worries and Fears at Bay)
Identify your core values (choose your 5 predominant values) Make a list of them and keep it at reach-of-hand.
How do you act them out in your every day words and actions? These values can be a guide of measure by which you
evaluate your everyday decisions and choices.
concern for others integrity
faith love, romance
goodness gratitude positive attitude
hard work adventure
"One of the first things most of us do when we are
overwhelmed wih inner turbulence is: we instinctively
try to calm down into a state of ease before starting
to sort out solutions. Why do we do this? Because we
intuitively sens that the state of ease helps us to get
back in our heart which helps to re-stabilize the mind
and emotions - this re-connects us with our reasoning
capacity and clear view. We adults occasionally
remember the wisdom of such practices, but it's often
after the fact and after much energy drain. This article
suggest a few advantages of accessing our state of
inner-ease, not just for bailing out out of emotional
turbulence, but to use throughout the day for
maintaining connection and coherent alignment between
the heart, mind and emotions."
You may download this free booklet written by Doc Childre,
founder of HeartMath and discover the benefits of the state
herbal therapy is another approach possible for for relief towards anxiety
Two important therapeutic tools can be of assistance
in our journey of positive recovery from anxiety.
I identify them to be:
To find detailed information on how these therapeutic tools
can instigate renewal into your generalized anxiety
concern click the following links:
Complete Idiots’ Guide Controlling Anxiety
Power over Stress – 35 Quick Prescriptions
for Mastering the Stress in Your Life
by Kenford Nedd, M.D, QP Press Canada 2004
Copyright © Kenford Nedd, M.D. p-183, 205.
Psychologie – science de l’homme,
by Robert J. Trotter and James V. McConnells,
Editions HRW Ltée Copyright © 1980
Take Control of Your Life –
A Complete Guide to Stress Relief
by Sharon Faelton, David Diamond
and the Editions of Prevention ® Magazine,
Rodale Press Emmaus Pennsylvania
Copyright © 1988.
The Peace of Mind Prescription –
An Authoritative Guide to Finding the Most
Effective Treatment for Anxiety and Depression,
by Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D.,Ph.D.,
Dennis S. Charney, M.D. with Stephen Braun,
Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York
Copyright © 2004.
The State of Ease