If you have been more anxious than usual, went through a recent life change, and feel overwhelmed you may wonder why your anxiety won’t subside. If these anxious thoughts have persisted for six or more months, you might have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is often experienced in combination with depression, panic attacks, and other psychological ailments, though it is also experienced on its own.
Do You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
The modern world is filled with wonderful things! Smart watches, laptops, cell phones, they are all supposed to help us navigate through our day and connect with others. The downside of this is our inability to step away from our various roles in life.
We are bombarded by emails, texts, phone calls, deadlines, due dates-- it can be overwhelming. The worry caused by all these devices is only made worse by the media, which just shows what is going wrong in the world. Our culture tells us that we should always be on high alert, that worrying about everything is necessary, but this isn't healthy. A life of anxiety isn't conducive to a joyful existence.
Everyone experiences anxiety and a certain amount of stress can be beneficial, but those with GAD feel powerless to stop their mind from entertaining their anxious thoughts. The symptoms of GAD interfere with your ability to focus on work, school, and even hobbies you find fulfilling. People with GAD just can't escape the feeling that something is wrong.
Does this sound like you?
Do you lay in bed for hours trying to sleep to no avail? You keep playing the day over and over in your head becoming increasingly more alert and less sleepy. Or, maybe, you can't stop thinking about your future and how you will inevitably mess up something. Basically, you just can't shut your mind off.
When you wake up the next day, you are exhausted! Even after your cup of coffee, you feel irritable and fatigued. Your family or friends try to talk to you only for you to lash out. Later you regret what you said. You are tired and just can't seem to improve your mood. No one seems to understand what you are going through.
Your muscles feel tight and tense, even in situations that shouldn't cause tension. You sit at your desk and continuously rub your neck, shoulders, or back trying to relax a little. To top it off, you have been sweating profusely, for no clear reason. You try to hide your sweating from others and only wear colors that hide sweat spots.
You find yourself overthinking everything. Analyzing your behavior and concluding you did everything wrong. Your boss talks to you, maybe even pays you a compliment, and you begin to think she/he has ulterior motives, you ponder if you will be demoted, or fired. All situations appear threatening in some way.
Every scenario you play in your head ends in the worst way possible. You can't focus on any positive outcomes, everything looks like it is going to go south. Letting go of these worries feels impossible.
After getting home from work, you try to relax. You watch the news and become overwhelmed by the state of the world. You watch your favorite show and find yourself uninterested. Finally, you try to engage in your favorite hobby, but you can’t focus.
You might have turned to drugs or alcohol to help you relax or go to sleep. Now you are dealing with a habit or addiction, which causes even more problems in your life, furthering your stress. You keep using though because, after a few drinks, you feel relaxed enough to lie down.
So, you go to bed and start the cycle over again.
The symptoms explained
If this sounds like you, then you may be dealing with GAD. Many people report that GAD disrupts their ability to fallasleep and stay asleep, leaving them in a state of perpetual exhaustion.A lack of sleep can cause you to lose focus at work, school, and at home.
GAD can make you ill-tempered, even when you’re around people you care about. You may feel as if you are carrying around an invisible backpack full of lead weights. No one seems to understand, or even see, the pressure you are feeling. Even when you are doing well in life, your anxiety distorts your perspective making you feel as if you are failing at everything.
This psychological disorder is often accompanied by physical symptoms. One symptom is excessive muscle tension, which leads to physical health issues like back pain, pulled muscles, and migraines. People with GAD are constantly in fight or flight mode, this high level of alertness causes the body to sweat more than usual and may cause trembling of the hands and even nausea.
If you are currently abusing recreational drugs (including legal ones such as cannabis or alcohol) your drug use may intensify your other symptoms. Many people with GAD use substances to cover up their anxiety, they have a false belief that their intoxicated self is better than their sober self. They think getting drunk or high will relieve their fear, and it may, for a brief moment of time.
Once you are sober again, the thoughts are back. The inescapable dread is there telling your body and mind something terrible is happening, and you just don't know what it is. Abusing substances is never a sustainable strategy for dealing with your stress.
What causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
In the United States alone, over ten million people suffer from GAD, and many have no clue that what they are feeling isn't normal. Some people believe they are just anxious by nature, that being an adult is supposed to feel like this, or that they can't change how their mind works. This isn't true!
The mental and physical symptoms of GAD can ruin your self-confidence causing you to feel less like yourself. If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, for at least six months, you should talk to a therapist about your symptoms.
Often GAD develops early on in life because of stressful environments and situations. Nevertheless, It isn't uncommon to develop GAD in adulthood during stressful periods of transition or change. Whether the change is marriage, divorce, having a baby, or switching jobs all stressful events–positive or negative-can contribute to your anxiety disorder.
Under intense pressure men, women, and children can develop GAD. The sooner you reach out for help, the better. It can be hard to admit you are dealing with mental health issues. Some are worried about how others will see them, or they have been told they are just "overreacting" by those close to them.
What do I do if I think I have GAD?
Dealing with the symptoms of GAD on your own is draining. However, you don’t have to face the anxiety alone! A therapist is required by law to keep sessions confidential, they will never betray your trust. They understand the symptoms of GAD and never belittle your experiences or thoughts.
Having a professional that will sit and listen to you can help decrease your symptoms.
Your concerns may seem very real in the moment but having a trusted second opinion can put your worries to rest. Your therapist will help you identify maladaptive patterns of thought and keep your anxiety proportionate to the problems at hand.
Therapists will teach you ways to cope in private and in public situations. By equipping you with proven techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), counseling can help you develop successful coping mechanisms.
Dealing with the mental symptoms of GAD can help you regain control of your life. Mentally you will be more present in the here and now, and not replaying your mistakes or being overwhelmed by the future.Physically, you will sweat less and regain your steady hand. Your confidence can be recovered, you can stop overthinking, and you can restore your life to normal.
You don’t need to suffer alone! Dr. Albright will help you develop the tools you need in your fight against Generalized Anxiety Disorder.