Everyone gets anxious from time to time. Anxiety is sometimes thought of as the energy of life, as it motivates us to do, or not do, certain things. But there is a point where it becomes painful, where it interferes with daily living, and that is where it becomes Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosable condition where the person suffers from persistent and unrelenting anxiety, with no real cause. If a person were living in a violent situation, like an abusive home, having chronic anxiety would be an appropriate response. For people with GAD, there is nothing in the environment to cause them extreme fear or stress, yet they feel it intensely.
It is generally thought that GAD stems from a combination of a genetic component, and the way the person is brought up. If a person is brought up to be more fearful and mistrustful of things, they may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, like GAD.
Feeling nervous occasionally is normal, but chronic and persistent anxiety, like with GAD, can inhibit how you live your life. A good rule to follow is if you notice that you are unable to stop worrying and it is interfering with any aspect of your life, such as, your job, relationships, spirituality, then it is time to seek help. It is also important to reach out for help if you find yourself using alcohol or other substances to help manage the symptoms, or if you experience thoughts of suicide.
People with GAD will likely experience many of the same types of symptoms, but it may not be each symptom, every day. It is important to note that this is a chronic condition, and feeling anxious over a test coming next week, is not GAD; the test anxiety goes away after the event is over, GAD does not go away. Some other symptoms include:
- Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
- Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
- Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy
- Nervousness or being easily startled
- Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
While this sounds painful, it is important to know that GAD is treatable and can be overcome with the help of medication, education, and talk therapy. If this sounds like you or someone you know, reaching out for help is vital. The sooner you get help, the easier this illness is to overcome.