Each person experiences and deals with a variety of unique stressors in their everyday life. It is perfectly normal to worry about an important meeting coming up, a midterm, moving, or whether or not your teenager will make the right decision when pressured to do drugs. Stress and anxiety are a natural part of what makes us human. It clarifies what is important to us and pushes us to make a move in the right direction.
Many people can effectively manage this stress, meaning that their mental health remains stable and they can carry out their daily tasks without significant psychological hurdles. By contrast, others experience something quite different; every day is a battle just to determine if their anxiety is warranted, or if it is just another figment of their imagination.
Identifying Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
So, what differentiates these two types of people? Persons that have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience the same symptoms of “healthy” anxiety, except common symptoms of increased heart rate, nervousness, and worry are magnified. For example, imagine you have a presentation to make at work tomorrow and you are feeling nervous and a bit unsure of how you’ll perform. A person with GAD might start to spiral into telling themself a terrifying narrative of all the things that can, but are highly unlikely to, go wrong. Not only that, but these thoughts can be so alarming that the person can’t sleep all night. They are working out in their mind how they would respond to each devastating but entirely imagined occurrence.
GAD is characterized by persistent and irrational fears, well out of proportion to reality. This can cause significant problems at work, school, and with friends and family. Here are some other symptoms to look out for:
- Sudden panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
- Persistent low mood and irritability
- Breathing rapidly, sweating, and trembling
- Feeling weak or tired, especially after an episode
- Trouble concentrating and unable to control worry
- Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing
- Avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety but pose little or no threat
Some People Are More Vulnerable Than Others
If you think you might have a GAD, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, about 18% of the U.S. population experience an anxiety disorder in a given year. The National Institute of Health explains that there are biological and environmental risk factors that can result in a GAD in adulthood:
- Family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
- Temperamental traits of shyness/behavioral inhibition in childhood
- Experiencing repeated stressful or traumatic events in childhood or as an adult
- Medical-related conditions (i.e. diabetes, thyroid disorders, heart arrhythmias, use of caffeine or other substances/medications, drug withdrawal)
Personality traits are also important to consider in risk factors associated with developing GAD and other mental health disorders. For example, high neuroticism, low extraversion, and personality disorder traits from Cluster C have been found to be “at least markers of risk for certain anxiety disorders.”
Neuroticism stands out in particular and is one of the Big 5 personality traits. It means that a person tends to a multitude of negative emotions and feelings including anxiety, tenseness, depression, self-doubt, moodiness, shyness, and lowered self-esteem. Like other personality traits, it exists on a spectrum with some more neurotic than others. You can also think about neuroticism as low emotional stability, making one more vulnerable to experiencing negative emotions. It may come as no surprise that these traits can cause a person to be more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.
It’s Time to Seek Guidance
Generalized anxiety disorder is not the only kind of anxiety-related condition out there. There are several others including:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Phobias (i.e. claustrophobia, agoraphobia)
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
It is important to do the best you can in using easily accessible coping mechanisms such as art, breathwork, exercise, and mindfulness to manage your disorder. In the end, it may not be enough. If you find yourself needing a little extra support, that’s okay. Please know that there is no reason to be embarrassed. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be incredibly challenging to live with but you don’t have to do it alone. There are different types of treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and prescription medications that can help you work out the underlying causes to manage your anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal response to everyday stressors. Like a puppy nipping at your heels, it can push you to respond, focus, and get work done. Many people can deal with stress healthily and responsibly, while others have a much harder time. Characterized by persistent and irrational thoughts and fears, Generalized Anxiety Disorder can make even minor hiccups feel like the end of the world. Frequent panic attacks, nightmares, and flashbacks make it hard to work and maintain relationships. You may be at a higher risk of GAD if mental illness runs in the family, or if you experienced severe stress or trauma as a child. Certain personality traits like neuroticism and introversion have also been found as markers of anxiety disorders. Located in the San Diego area, Achieve Concierge offers treatment plans tailored to your unique concerns. There may be a deeper reason for your condition; let us help you discover it. Call us today: (619) 393-5871.