Shining Light on Nightmare of an the Debilitating Anxiety Disorder; THERE'S Light at the End of the Tunnel for Anxiety Sufferers. Health Reporter HELEN RAE Explains

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SOMETIMES everyone has feelings of dread, worry and panic, but for someone with an anxiety disorder such feelings are an everyday occurrence.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is often misunderstood or underestimated with sufferers often stigmatised and dismissed as "worriers".

But the reality of the condition is that it can debilitate a sufferer dreadfully, turning everyday occurrences into a nightmare.

The mental health condition is common.

The Office of National Statistics estimates that one in six adults in Britain will suffer from GAD.

Dave Miller, secretary of Altering Images of Mentality (AIM), said: "Although everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, like before an exam or a job interview, for people suffering from anxiety disorders such extreme feelings of unease, worry and fear, is constant and affects their daily life.

"Anxiety disorders, include panic disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"GAD is a long-term condition which causes a person to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.

"People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed and it can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person and include feeling irritable, worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping."

The disorder is most common in people in their 20s and affects more women than men.

Stephen O'Driscoll, 42, knows the hardship of coping with anxiety coupled with depression.

Stephen endured horrendous abuse at the hands of a paedophile during his teenage years, something which he kept from his family.

Although he was too afraid to speak out, Stephen's hurt and suffering was displayed through the development of severe depression and anxiety and through persistent self-harm.

The 42-year-old, from Heaton, Newcastle, was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the 1980s soon after the abuse started.

He said: "I was abused by a friend of my dad and no one knew about it. I didn't tell anyone, I kept it to myself while this man continued to hang around my family, drinking with my dad.

"As a result I ended up abusing alcohol and self-harming. I would drink to block it out; alcohol took me to a place where I could forget."

Stephen continued drinking, consuming a half bottle of vodka before he got out of bed in the morning. He also continued selfharming and over the years was admitted to different psychiatric units.

He kept his secret and found that because he couldn't discuss the abuse, people he had known for years began to stigmatise him. He said: "People would say I was a 'nutter' because they didn't know why I was the way I was. They didn't know that I had been abused so they didn't understand and some didn't want to know.

"My close family circle, like my parents, were very understanding and supportive but outside of that, like some family friends, weren't as understanding.

"Some days I would just sit in staring at the four blank walls. I stopped going out altogether to avoid seeing people who just thought I was mad anyway."

At his lowest point Stephen was on six tablets a day and would often deliberately overdose on a month's worth of medication or cut himself so frequently that he would remove his own stitches to avoid being questioned by medical staff.

Sadly his father Michael died in 1995 of a brain tumour, never knowing the real cause of Stephen's mental health problems.

And more hardship was to follow, when in 2005 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had to undergo five gruelling operations.

He stayed with his mum, Abina O'Driscoll, and ended up evicted from his flat because he was too ill to collect his mail. …