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The Scream – Edvard Munch

As life seems to become ever more complicated and today’s economy works to separate individuals from the family and community, which used to provide the supporting bedrock for previous generations, more people seem to fall prey to anxiety. There is even a modern day term for this condition – GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder.)

There is a huge range of symptoms of this disorder. It is however, important not to confuse anxiety with depression. ‘Depression’ results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and is usually amenable to treatment with modern medicines. It is not the same as ‘anxiety.’ Anxiety seems to be more directly related to external events or circumstances that arise in people’s lives. Such experiences as an earthquake, being picked on by a work-place bully, experiencing a family break-up or being attacked by a stray dog, can all set in train a series of intensely personal, inner thoughts and views that can blight someone’s entire life. GAD victims can find it hard to go to work, to enter an aeroplane, to go to social event, or sometimes, even to leave the house.

The usual recourse (in many cases having first tried smoking, alcohol and comfort eating) seems to be the family doctor. These overworked practitioners have their working days divided into fifteen minute slots and are expected to deal with such deep-rooted and complex matters as GAD within tight time-constraints. The easiest solution is a prescription for a drug that will lower the brain’s emotional activity.

From my experience of treating an increasing number of clients suffering from GAD, a fifteen minute discussion followed by a prescription is unlikely to solve the problem. To me, anxiety seems to be an addiction. In the same way that addictive substances can circulate in the blood-stream, so too a person can become addicted to the circulation of negative thoughts in the brain.

Hypnotherapy and electro-puncture do seem to ease the problem considerably – but not in fifteen minutes. My average hypnotherapy session lasts for over an hour and usually, I would expect the client to return for several ‘top-up’ sessions. Happily, people I treat for anxiety will normally report a significant easing of their condition and an ability to get back into leading normal and functional lives.

About three percent (seven million) of the American adult population suffers from GAD and it would be surprising if New Zealand didn’t have a similar percentage of suffers (over 100,000 people.) As the current frenetic rate of social and environmental changes intensify, these numbers are likely to increase.

In the words of the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America):

“GAD is diagnosed in adults when they experience at least three of the symptoms below on more days than not for at least six months; only one symptom is required in children.

If you suspect that you might be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the ADAA offers the questionnaire below:

Are you troubled by the following?

Yes     No              Excessive worry, occurring more days than not, for a least six months

Yes   No                Unreasonable worry about events or activities, such as work, school, or your health

Yes   No                The inability to control the worry


Are you bothered by at least three of the following?

Yes   No                Restlessness, feeling keyed-up, or on edge

Yes   No                Being easily tired

Yes   No                Problems concentrating

Yes   No                Irritability

Yes   No                Muscle tension

Yes   No                Trouble falling or staying asleep, or restless and unsatisfying sleep

Yes   No                Your anxiety interfering with your daily life


Having more than one illness at the same time can make it difficult to diagnose and treat the different conditions. Depression and substance abuse are among the conditions that occasionally complicate anxiety disorders.

Yes   No                Have you experienced changes in sleeping or eating habits?


More days than not, do you feel

Yes   No                sad or depressed?

Yes   No                disinterested in life?

Yes   No                worthless or guilty?


During the last year, has the use of alcohol or drugs…

Yes   No                resulted in your failure to fulfil responsibilities with work, school, or family?

Yes   No                placed you in a dangerous situation, such as driving a car under the influence?

Yes   No                got you arrested?

Yes   No                continued despite causing problems for you or your loved ones?



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.”



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