Anxiety is a natural thing. Not only that, it’s essential – without anxiety we probably wouldn’t bother doing anything or even survive. Anixety is a motivator, that reminds us that there’s stuff to do, as well as a survival instinct that keeps us safe in dangerous situations. However, when anxiety begins to become an almost ever-present state of being, it can affect our wellbeing and increasingly encroach on our everyday lives, causing us to avoid anything that threatens to bring on an anxious feeling.
An anxiety disorder is said to exist when anxiety becomes long-lasting and severe, and affects a person’s work or relationships. In 1988, Sir David Goldberg and colleagues at the Social Psychiatry Research Unit within the Australian National University came up with a ‘scale’ or set of questions that could be used to test anxiety levels. It’s simple and quick – so if you’d like to see whereabouts you sit on the scale, read the following questions and write down an answer (‘yes’ or ‘no’) for each question on a piece of paper.
The Goldberg Anxiety Scale
In the past month, for most of the time:
- Have you felt keyed up, high-strung or on edge?
- Have you been worrying a lot?
- Have you been irritable?
- Have you had any difficulty relaxing?
- Have you been sleeping poorly? (too much or too little)
- Have you had headaches or neck-aches?
- Have you had any of the following: trembling, tingling, dizzy spells, sweating, frequent urination, or diarrhoea?
- Have you been worried about your health?
- Have you had difficulty falling asleep?
Interpretating the test
Score one point for each ‘yes’. Most people have some of these symptoms – the average score for the test is four – but the higher the score, the more likely you are to be experiencing anxiety at a level that is affecting and disrupting your life. It may be that you are aware of an event in your life that has caused temporary anxiety, and that you feel the fog is lifting. But if you are troubled by some of the symptoms, and have noticed they are beginning to affect your ability to function on a daily level, this may be a good time to seek professional help from your doctor and consider counselling. Many people seek help for anxiety, because it responds to all sorts of treatments, from simple self-help strategies to counselling and short-term medication. It is not a ‘character flaw’ or ‘weakness’, but a natural instinct that sometimes runs on overtime, especially when we’re trying to take on especially challenging responsibilities.
In my next post I’ll list some effective self-help strategies for reducing anxiety, including ways to calm the body and mind. As always, thanks for reading.
Sarah Tomley is a counsellor and author working in Suffolk, UK at Insight Counselling Ipswich