Unlike the typical anxiety that some may experience every day, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition that is significantly disruptive to individuals as it includes symptoms of excessive worry for activities or events to come in the future.
Life is full of uncertainties and worries that can possibly wreck all our punctilious planning. A surge of anxiousness is a normal part of our lives because more often than not, anxiety helps us to prepare ourselves and to be productive.
For instance, if a student is worried that he/she might fail Calculus, get bad grades, and his/her parents might react gravely about it. So, to avoid this from happening, students will review and prepare for the upcoming examination and perform their best to get good grades.
Anxiety, in a way, helps us prepare ourselves to prevent the drastic scenarios in our heads to come to life. Anxiety is a normal response in anticipating the future.
However, if your worries and fear have become frequent and consistent that you are dysfunctionally stirred and you find it hard to relax, there are chances that you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
BUT, worry alone is not a strong and single indication that you already have GAD. Someone who experiences fear, anxiety, and worry does not immediately mean that they have the disorder.
Keep in mind that self-diagnosis only brings harm rather than good to ourselves and that the clinical assessment and diagnosis must be performed by experts such as Clinical Psychologists.
Nevertheless, it is better to know and watch out for signs and symptoms when you need to seek professional help.
In this article, I will discuss what is Generalized Anxiety Disorder and the signs and symptoms you must take note of to be able to reach out for help and to help people who are manifesting symptoms of GAD as well.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
What you need to remember about Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that its essential feature is excessive worry, anxiety, and agitated expectation about countless activities, events, tasks, topics that are mostly minor things.
The worry and anxiety are totally out of proportion and the person struggles to concentrate and control the worry to avoid interfering with the attention to the task at hand.
While normal anxiety emphasizes a specific event, people diagnosed with GAD experience uncontrollable and unsubstantiated worry even when there is no particular reason to concern. The worrying does not just last for days, it persists at least six months consistently.
Sometimes, Generalized Anxiety Disorder comes with comorbidity or something that occurs at the same time. For instance, GAD may also come with depression.
Fear and anxiety have always been interchangeably confused.
According to the DSM-5, fear is the emotional response to an imminent threat. While anxiety is the apprehension of a future threat.
One perfect way to differentiate it is this instance:
Fear is when you are confronted with an extensive threat at the present. For example, you are face to face with a snake and the response you illicit is fear because the threat is right in front of you.
Anxiety is when you are worried about the graded recitation for your Chemistry class and you keep thinking about the preparation to avoid embarrassment and failure.
Sample case study on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
To have a better understanding of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how it happens in real life, here is a simple case study example from the Society of Clinical Psychology to give you a brief idea:
Phil is a 67-year-old male who reports that his biggest problem is worrying. He worries all of the time and about “everything under the sun.”
For example, he reports equal worry about his wife who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and whether he returned his book to the library. He recognizes that his wife is more important than a book, and is bothered that both cause him similar levels of worry.
Phil is unable to control his worrying. Accompanying this excessive and uncontrollable worry are difficulty falling asleep, impatience with others, difficulty focusing at work, and significant back and muscle tension. Phil has had a lifelong problem with worry, recalling that his mother called him a “worry wart.” His worrying does wax and wane and worsened when his wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
This case study will help you be able to fully comprehend the signs and symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder that will be discussed next.
Key signs and symptoms to watch out
While I totally do not recommend self-diagnosing as this will only increase the stigma in mental health, it is also wise to be aware if you suspect that you are struggling with GAD to be able to acknowledge when you need to seek professional help and assessment.
Here are the signs and symptoms to remember on Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
1. Excessive and uncontrollable worry
The major and key feature of GAD is the excessive worry that one experiences. In the case of Phil, it is evident that he worries consistently even over the minor things around to the point that he no longer can control this worry.
Another good example of this criteria is constantly thinking about whether you have turned off all the lights before going to bed- causing you to get up and check now and then.
2. Mind going blank
Generalized Anxiety Disorder comes with not being able to concentrate properly. Because you worry about a lot of things, your mind could go blank and you may even find it difficult to focus on a particular task because your mind is busy thinking all at the same time.
For example, when you try to set your mind to finishing homework, you just can’t because your mind is unfocused. For people who have GAD, there are countless thoughts going on inside your head that are unmanageable leading to feeling distressed.
3. Difficulty falling asleep
One of the huge effects of anxiety is having a hard time falling asleep. Because you can’t stop thinking about your worries, these worries keep you up at night leaving you restless.
Like Phil in our example, due to excessive worry, he finds it hard to fall asleep.
4. Easily fatigued
One manifestation of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is being easily fatigued. People who are experiencing symptoms of GAD easily get tired because of constant anxiety and worry.
Mental exhaustion is sometimes even more tiring than the physical one- it is draining when intrusive thoughts get in our way.
One of the signs and symptoms you need to watch out for in Generalized Anxiety Disorder is irritability. People who are diagnosed with GAD more often than not experience grumpiness. Intrusive thoughts affect the mood of the person.
Consistent worry may lead to irritability as the thoughts are uncontrollable just like the one that Phil, in our example, that he encounters.
6. Muscle tension
A person who experiences GAD may feel a severe muscle tension. Psychological disorders also affect our bodies and manifest through physical pain.
7. The worry lasts for 6 months
What sets the normal anxiety to GAD is that Generalized Anxiety Disorder persists for at least 6 months. A common worry that some experience every day may diminish with time. But the GAD is lasting and does not easily decline.
8. Significant distress
Unmanageable worries may lead to significant distress. As a person tries not to worry about everything under the sun and fails to control the worry, it gets frustrating and stressful to deal with.
The significant distress also affects the person’s ability to function well on daily routines and tasks every day. What’s making the situation worse are the challenges that are being faced every day in our lives.
9. Exaggeration of thoughts
Due to excessive worry, chances are a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may think of magnified scenarios. One good example of this is a pregnant woman who excessively worries about her labor that her child may lose his/her head during the delivery.
10. Sweating and increase in heart rate
Due to the anxiety that is being experienced constantly, biological responses such as sweating and an increase in heart rate are felt. A person may feel nervous and anxious causing colossal amounts of release sweat and escalated heart rate.
Have you ever experienced getting nervous in front of a crowd? Anxious that you might embarrass yourself in front of the audience? For people diagnosed with GAD, it is even more difficult to bear as this may be experienced almost every day.
This article discussed fundamental information about Generalized Anxiety Disorder and better understand the signs and symptoms to be able to know when you need to seek professional help.
It is important to remember that this information is just to help you and your loved ones who may be suspected to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Self-diagnosis is harmful and that only experts in this field are competent to confirm the diagnosis by conducting a battery of tests.
If you are suspecting yourself or any loved one who may be experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder, do not hesitate to consult a specialist so you are assured that proper clinical assessment and diagnosis is performed to have a better understanding and knowledge of the situation.