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Self-help program

What is generalised anxiety disorder?

Sometimes your normal feeling of anxiety can become generalised anxiety disorder. This is a mental health disorder diagnosed by a doctor.

The following characteristics are typical of generalised anxiety disorder:

  • The anxiety has become excessively strong, uncontrollable and long-term. 
  • The anxiety isn’t dependent on an external situation.  
  • Instead of guiding our activities towards better solutions, anxiety interferes with our everyday life and, for example, makes us avoid many situations. 
No real danger
The body still produces a feeling of anxiety
Anxiety interferes with everyday life and causes avoidance

Among others, the following symptoms are associated with generalised anxiety disorder:

Symptoms related to thinking

  • Excessive concern
  • Increased worrying
  • Fearing for the health and safety of yourself and people close to you
  • Difficulty concentrating

Physical symptoms

•    Restlessness, tension, nervousness
•    Trembling
•    Muscle tension
•    Sweating
•    Faintness and dizziness
•    Heart palpitations
•    Faster breathing
•    Stomach problems and nausea
•    Fatigue and sleep problems

Social problems and decreased functional capacity

•    Avoiding social situations
•    Avoiding objects and situations that cause anxiety
•    Fear of being rejected or abandoned in relationships
•    Reduced work or study capacity

In the following video (2:35) leading psychologist Jan-Henry Stenberg explains when anxiety has progressed so far that it is good to intervene, for example by trying this self-help program.

Worries and fears

The most important of these symptoms are various worries and fears about what might happen in the future. There are usually many worries: for example, about money, relationships, health and success in studies or work.

The worry is typically constant and persistent: it seems to take up all your attention and energy. 

Anxiety is often vague, and it may not be possible to accurately identify the underlying concerns. You may even feel that it would be easier to name the things that you don’t worry about. In many cases, people with generalised anxiety disorder worry about absolutely everything.


At times it can be difficult to identify the line between useful processing of a problem and non-beneficial worrying.

Worrying is often

•    automatic
•    uncontrollable
•    repetitive
•    sometimes compulsive.

Worrying usually begins with a concrete worry

A small amount of anxiety or minor irritating thoughts may be associated with the worry. You might think that something bad could happen, for example,

  • “What if I fail in this work task?”
  • “What if something happens to my children on the way home from school”.

The initial worrying often leads to more worry

You might notice yourself thinking about consequences and threats, for example:

  • “These fears will never end.”
  • “I’m probably going crazy.”
  • “I’m probably weaker than others because I can’t control my thoughts or stop worrying.”

These types of thoughts are typical of generalised anxiety disorder.


The problems grow larger in your mind while emotions become more and more negative, at times even turning into a strong sense of fear. The mind tries to predict presumed threats and reduce anxiety in advance.

However, worrying about things does not always lead to a solution, so your anxiety increases over time.