Everyone, at one time or another, feels the pain of stress or the sting of worry. Are there layoffs coming? Can I afford gas if it keeps going up? Does my partner still love me? Am I going to pass this class?
But when we start worrying about everyday issues persistently for no reason at all, or if our worry seems ill-proportioned to what’s going on, then we might consider the possibility of an anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is characterized by feeling worried or nervous about most things more frequently than most, or worrying about things for no reason at all. Generalized anxiety disorder might make you feel persistently scared, sometimes for weeks at a time. Sometimes it can last months. In worst, untreated cases, it can last for years. Generalized anxiety disorder usually develops slowly over time, and is more common in women than it is in men. That said, it can occur for anyone, at any time, at any age.
The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include the following:
- Worrying excessively
- Difficulty concentrating
- Other unexplained physical pains
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Frequent bathroom breaks
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Excessive sweating
These symptoms can arise when a person things about daily, routine things, like finances, health, job security, relationships, health and various responsibilities. Kids with GAD might worry about things like catastrophes (earthquakes, hurricanes, war), their performance at school or on a sports field, or the health and safety of the people they love.
The thing about anxiety is it doesn’t just stay in the mind – it can manifest into physical symptoms, as listed above, so not only is it uncomfortable mentally, it’s physically painful as well.
No one really knows what causes generalized anxiety disorder, even though we know it can be hereditary. For people who have experienced a traumatic event or who have been exposed to stressful environments for a considerable period of time, the risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder gets higher.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated, but it must first be diagnosed. If you’re experiencing symptoms like the ones listed here, talk to a health care provider or a mental health professional. You may be prescribed medication, or it might be suggested to you to enroll in regular therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, therapist, psychologist or other type of mental health professional. In some cases, your anxiety may be treated with a combination of therapy and medicine. You may also be encouraged to join a support group so you can talk it out with people who know just what you’re going through. If this is an option that sounds made for you, make sure you’re running the advice you may receive through a support group by your therapist, so you’re not unconsciously replacing official treatment recommendations from a professional.
On top of all of this, there are many ways for you to support yourself too.
The first thing is to educate yourself and learn as much as you can about generalized anxiety disorder. Knowing as much as possible helps make sense of what you’re dealing with. You’ll be able to better communicate with your friends and family about what you’re struggling with, and they’ll be more informed too, which is so important on your lowest days when you need the most support.