Generalised Anxiety Disorder – GAD
Are you the type to get overly anxious just about anything? Do you continuously fret over bills, the kids, your career or relationships? Worrying is considered a regular part of our stressed-out lifestyles.
Whatever your financial status, family happiness, or career success, we never seem to run out of problems that keep us awake at night. The modern lifestyle demands nothing short of perfection from us, which makes it almost impossible to have one worry-free day our entire lives.
We have come to accept persistent anxiety as the price we have to pay for success. However, when you can’t sleep at night, sweat with fear, or get heart palpitations, does it mean you have a generalised anxiety disorder also known as GAD? Should you merely find a way to cope like everyone else, or seek professional help? If you get physically sick with anxiety, then it’s time to get an expert opinion. Like millions of others, you might be suffering from GAD; one of the most common mental health problems in the world. It can be a severe disorder that can wreak havoc on your lifestyle, career, and relationships if you do not get the right help immediately.
There is Nothing Normal About Persistent Anxiety
When you worry over something, you are basically living in fear of a particular threat or danger. Your mind is conditioned to instill fear and anxiety as a built-in survival mechanism. This is a protective instinct, designed to force you to respond to an impending threat. Without it, we would all ignore imminent dangers to our lives, and end up seriously injured or even dead.
Fear might keep us alive, but it’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, persistent worry, stress, and anxiety are bad for your health and are risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and obesity. Living with anxiety negatively impacts your relationships and prevents you from progressing at work or enjoying everyday life. So, when do fear and worry become a Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
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What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
People with GAD worry excessively and unrealistically about everyday problems. They obsess about finances or job performance several times a day for weeks or months without pause. Even when the stressor or trigger is not serious, GAD will make you fail to sleep at night or concentrate on your job. Unlike normal anxiety in healthy persons, GAD will lead to physical and psychological complications such as dizziness, heart palpitations or profuse sweating.
Although healthy people worry from time to time about a specific problem such as an overdue credit card debt, those with generalised anxiety disorder worry about everything and nothing in particular. Often, people with GAD cannot pinpoint the source of their worry. Furthermore, their reaction to stress is blown out of proportion, and gives them a constant sense of doom or impending disaster. Having GAD is not just about fretting over everything like our mother’s do; its an abnormal behavior where you worry uncontrollably over common events and situations.
Although people with generalised anxiety disorder realise that their constant worry is unwarranted, they feel it’s beyond their control, and that there is nothing they can do about it. They are powerless as fear and anxiety take over their lives. The thought of just getting through a typical day is enough to flood them with uncontrollable fear. This will drive them to avoid situations that may cause anxiety, such as work or school, or fail to take advantage of a lucrative opportunity.
GAD will also make you:
- Fear the future or uncertain situations
- Be indecisive for fear making the wrong decisions
- Constantly obsess over worst-case scenarios
- Overthink plans and solutions to problems
- Interpret normal circumstances as threatening or dangerous
- Constantly on edge and ready to fight or flee
- Lack concentration
- Unable to stop worrying even after the issue is resolved
Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder
The persistent worry suffered by people with GAD will cause a myriad of both physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms which include:
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Difficulty breathing or hyperventilating
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea and repeated diarrhea or stomach discomfort
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Muscle tension
- Shaking, twitching or trembling
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Jumping or startling at the slightest noise or disturbance
- Constant fatigue or exhaustion
- Numbness or tingling sensation
In addition to the above symptoms, teenagers and children may have the following signs of GAD:
- Desperate to fit in or be accepted as cool
- Fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes
- Skipping social activities or school
- Low in self-esteem and confidence
- Constantly seeking approval or reassurance
- Excessive worry about their school or sports performance
- Redoing tasks over and over again or striving for perfection
Causes And Risk Factors of Generalised Anxiety Disorder
The root cause of all anxiety disorders is the same, read; What Causes Anxiety here. However, these risk factors are common in people with GAD:
- A family history of anxiety, depression or other mental illness
- Gender; women and girls are twice as likely to have Generalised Anxiety Disorder than men
- Physical and emotional abuse especially during childhood
- Exposure to prolonged stress such as a chronic illness in the family
- Personality traits that influence your perception of danger
- Excessive use of tobacco, nicotine or caffeine, which can exacerbate anxiety
Why You Need to Seek Help for Anxiety
Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD, is a significant mental health problem that is more common than we think. GAD can make it impossible for you to function in society, develop depression and suffer debilitating physical illness. If your anxiety continues for weeks or months, is out of proportion, and doesn’t have an apparent cause, then it’s time to seek help. It is also essential to exclude conditions such as menopause, heart disease, thyroid problems or substance and alcohol abuse that are linked to anxiety.
Many people realise that their constant worry is a problem when it pushes them to seek relief in alcohol and drugs, or when it leads to suicidal tendencies. However, you don’t have to wait until it gets that far. Like any other anxiety disorder, GAD is a LEARNED behaviour that can be UNLEARNED. You are not born with anxiety, and neither is it unavoidable nor untreatable, so why should you suffer its harmful consequences?