On Wednesday, the Judge ruled that Pistorius should undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he had been affected by mental illness, specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder, when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February last year.

Many people have their opinions about mental illness, but in the wake of the court’s ruling, there has been an increase in misinformation and misunderstanding about mental illnesses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

“Due to recent developments, people who suffer from GAD are becoming scared of stigma and the reaction of others, and concerned that they or a loved one are potentially dangerous”, says SADAG’s Operations Director Cassey Chambers.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) constantly strives to create awareness about mental health issues and educate the public in order to decrease the stigma and raise help-seeking behaviour.

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People often don’t understand the fact that anxiety is a real illness

People often don’t understand the fact that anxiety is a real illness. In terms of GAD, it is time to set the record straight.

While it is perfectly normal to feel anxious from time to time, particularly when you live in a stressful environment, severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with your daily functioning is not healthy.

“GAD is a persistent, intense and excessive worrying of such severity that it interferes with someone’s functioning”, says Johannesburg psychologist, Kevin Bolon. When you worry about everything, and your worrying takes up so much time and energy that you start slipping in your work and social responsibilities, there is a problem.

“My worries consume me some days and I feel anxious even when there’s no reason to”, says Lara, a 33-year-old GAD sufferer. “I often have this overwhelming feeling that something terrible is going to happen – my family and friends just don’t get it.”

Generalised anxiety disorder doesn’t usually go away on its own – and can get worse over time, so the earlier it is treated, the better.

SADAG can be contacted on 0800 21 22 23, 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm for advice, information, brochures and referrals.