“My First Reaction To Anything
Is To Worry About It”
Clinical Psychologist, Ms Annelise Lai
Alex (not his real name) was an expatriate in Singapore. Although he lived a wealthy life with a happy family, he wasn’t happy because he was deeply troubled by his seemingly endless racing thoughts. “My mind is always racing from one topic to another, I feel like I am out of control!” Alex shared during our first session.
Despite the absence of complaints at work, Alex constantly worried about losing his job. “I will make a mistake at work, I will lose my job and won’t be able to pay for my house, I will get into trouble for a joke I made at work, my boss will find out that I go to therapy” and etc. Alex had to struggle tenaciously with his anxiety thoughts and his concentration at work deteriorated. He felt so mentally drained, helpless, and irritable every day.
His anxiety thoughts did not leave him alone even when Alex was on holiday. While he was spending time with his kids, he was distracted by the thought that they will have problem fitting in and will get bullied in school. Alex knew that his anxiety was robbing his life when he found himself losing quality time with his family and having difficulty sleeping. When he was resting on the sofa, Alex felt an urge to do something productive instead. He could never fully relax. With his wife’s encouragement, Alex decided to seek professional help.
Alex was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry for longer than 6 months. The worries were experienced as hard to control, which affects one’s day-to-day activities. GAD is a very common anxiety disorder with high prevalence locally and internationally. Yet, it is usually overlooked when one’s struggled is dismissed or minimized as “overthinking”. Certainly, all of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives but if you noticed that your worry has become out of proportion, it does no harm to seek professional opinion. GAD is treatable with therapy and/or medication.
In the course of five months, Alex attended therapy regularly. Alex understood that he has a strong family history of anxiety and his childhood traumas made him excessively cautious and hypervigilant in order to avoid trouble. His anxiety was learned to keep him safe from possible threats. Through therapy, Alex processed his past emotional distress and learned coping strategies to manage his anxiety. At the end of therapy, Alex no longer reacts by worrying excessively. He is able to recognize his unrealistic worry and react appropriately. Alex is now back to his native country and living a life he enjoys living.