Generalized anxiety disorder is an affliction of intense worry and anxiety.
GAD is characterized by your worrying interfering with your everyday life
Normal vs. GAD
It is normal for everyone to worry but people with generalized anxiety disorder bring it to a new level.
Ex: Your spouse is on a flight but was supposed to call you when they landed. It is now twenty minutes after they were supposed to land so you begin thinking that the plane has crashed.
An exact cause for generalized anxiety disorder has not yet been found but a variety of factors can contribute:
Abnormal levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain
The major symptoms
Excessive worry or tension
Need to use the bathroom often
How many people are afflicted
Approximately 9 million Americans are or have been afflicted with Generalized anxiety disorder.
Of those 9 million about half will have it their entire life with the other half having their symptoms dissipate after 12months.
Self diagnosis is the most common way.
Professionals try to discern whether it is Generalized anxiety disorder or whether a traumatic event or substance abuse is playing a large role in the patient’s anxiety
Can medications help?
While medications can help they are usually only used as a stepping stone in severe cases to help alleviate some symptoms before therapy start to help.
Some drugs used include:
Antidepressants (usually won’t help for at least 6 weeks)
Cognitive-behavioral therapies are the most effective and common way to combat Generalized anxiety disorder.
It uses a 5 step program of self help and therapy:
Education- distinguish between good and bad worry
Monitoring- discover what, when, why you worry
Physical Control Strategies- deep breathing to relax
Cognitive Control Strategies- evaluate and alter your thinking patterns
Behavioral Strategies- face your fears head on to eliminate them
How can one help oneself?
Simple lifestyle and thinking changes such as accepting uncertainty in life can drastically reduce symptoms.
Eating healthier, not smoking, not drinking caffine, and exercising can all help
Other things such as meditation and listening to relaxing music can also help
Interference with your life
Intense anxiety can cause difficulty in relationships by always worrying about what your partner may be doing (clinging)
It can also impact your work performance by distracting you and causing you to get off task by worrying
How it feels
I was not expecting my life to be ruled by anxiety the way it has. I have always worried about things from time to time but ever since ninth grade when I was diagnosed it has been unbearable.
My doctor tells me to use breathing exercises and to eat healthier but I already do eat very healthy, I’m practically a vegetarian except for the occasional fish.
This anxiety has taken over my life in many ways. I have even lost friends and haven’t even been able to get a girlfriend because I constantly worry about everyone and what they REALLY meant when they said that.
Recently I have really tried to combat my anxiety. I have accepted that it is part of me but I can change how I react to it. Now whenever I feel worry coming on I try to stay in my situation and remain calm.
Although GAD isn’t uncommon I am the only person I know with it. I live in a small town so I can’t really relate or talk with anyone about it but my doctor and parents, I just wish I had a friend who could relate.
Going to school can sometimes be really hard. It seems that concrete building is the source of all my worries; with grades, relationships, and so many negative influences sometimes I can hardly breathe.
One of the worst parts of my diagnosis was the interrogation by both my doctor and parents because they thought drug abuse was causing my anxiety. I was drug tested 3 days for a month before my parents were satisfied I wasn’t on anything. The sad thing is that I’ve never even had a sip of alcohol let alone anything else.
For all of the negativities and hardships that this illness brings me at least it’s curable. I am extremely grateful that I can manage and cure my disease even if it will take some hard work on my part.