What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the umbrella term we use to generally describe a series of symptoms we feel when we are worried, stressed out, or are scared.
Read here for more information about Anxiety
Anxiety comes in many different formats and may be experienced differently by everyone. It can be experienced in a mild manner, such as butterflies in your stomach, to severe and crippling anxiety.
Regardless of how you experience anxiety or anxiety-related issues, anxiety is something that is understandable and treatable.
What Is Generalized Anxiety?
As mentioned above, the term anxiety technically refers to the experience of any anxiety-related issues. Generalized anxiety is a particular subset of anxiety. Those with generalized anxiety often feel worried and tense, even when not instigated by a trigger of some sort. They worry excessively or assume and expect the worse, when there is no rational reason to do so. While everyone worries from time to time, generalized anxiety goes above and beyond everyday anxiousness.
To better understand generalized anxiety, we'll break it down further. A phobia is a fear and anxiety reaction to a specific target object. Generalized anxiety is having a fear and anxiety reaction from NO specific target.
Chronic worrying can have a long-term impact on your body and your mind.
So how can you tell if you are just worried versus having generalized anxiety disorder? While we often all worry about similar things -- money, family, kids, work, generalized anxiety takes it a step further. An example would be if someone doesn't call you back, you may worry that they are mad at you, that your friendship is over. This example helps to demonstrate some of the primary qualities of generalized anxiety disorder. They include:
- Excessive worrying: Worrying all day every day. Worrying about things that others would not worry about. Just getting through the day provoking anxiety.
- Intrusive thoughts: Worry thoughts constantly or frequently come in to your head and you are unable to interrupt them or distract yourself from them.
- Persistent worry: Pacing, the inability to control your worrying.
- Interference: Your anxiety disrupts your day-to-day activities. You are distracted at work, you don't go out, your friendships become troubled.
Other symptoms include:
- Worry thoughts
- Uncontrollable anxiety feelings
- Low tolerance for uncertain situations
- Feelings of dread
- Unable to relax or calm down
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding anxiety-provoking situations
- Feeling tense - emotionally or physically
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling like your mind won't stop
- Edginess, restlessness
Symptoms in children may differ slightly. Symptoms may include:
- Concentration issues in school
- Poor school performance
- Require a lot of approval and reassurance
While the exact cause of developing generalized anxiety disorder are unknown, there are some risk factors that have been identified as being associated with generalized anxiety disorder.
Being female: Twice the number of women as men are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
Childhood trauma may play a role in the development of generalized anxiety. Trauma can include witnessing trauma, abuse, being exposed to trauma - all of these may lead to the development of generalized anxiety disorder.
Illness such as a chronic or serious illness can lead to constant worry about things such as the future, money, and treatment.
Stress exacerbates the development of anxiety.
Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder may be associated with generalized anxiety disorder.
Substance abuse can exaggerate the symptoms of anxiety.
Diagnosis is often made after a person with generalized anxiety disorder feels that his or her anxiety is interfering with his or her personal life. You may feel that you worry too much; you suffer from depression, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (TR-IV), a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder contains the following features:
- Excessive anxiety and worry that occurs for more days than not for at least six months. The worry is about a variety of events or activities.
- The person finds it difficult to control the worry
- The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following (only one is required in children)
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
- The focus of the worry cannot be explained by other anxiety-related disorders, such as panic disorder, OCD, social phobia, separation anxiety, anorexia, somatization disorder, or hypochondriasis.
- The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The anxiety is not the result of a general health condition, medication, or substance.
Sometimes a person notices other physical ailments that are actually a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. When the mind cannot or will not process certain feelings or situations, it may outlet the feelings in to a physical ailment. Common physical conditions include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Heart disease
- Hypo- or hyper-thyroidism
- Menopause onset
Other issues include increasing the symptoms in other psychological or physical issues.
- Substance abuse
- Digestive issues
- Teeth grinding
Currently there are two primary methods of treating generalized anxiety disorder. They include the following:
Therapy - Therapy allows a mental health professional to examine and help you discover and manage the underlying causes for the anxiety and anxious feelings. Together you can use cognitive-behavioral techniques to focus on skill development to manage coping and thought patterns that lead to anxiety feelings.
Medication - This is the other primary treatment method utilized. Medication may be used to treat symptoms of depression, with anti-depressants; anxiety, with anti-anxiety medications; or stronger-acting benzodiazepines to help calm anxiety.
Typically therapy and medication are used hand-in-hand to reduce the feelings of anxiety, and increase relevant coping skills.
Additional Resources About Generalized Anxiety:
Anxiety.org - This website is fully dedicated to providing information about different anxiety disorders. There is information, resources, a directory of providers, articles, and information for therapists.
Mayo Clinic - This website contains a general description, treatment options, and resources related to generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America - This is a website dedicated to understanding and living with anxiety disorders. There is information about multiple anxiety disorders, as well as treatment options.
Helpguide.org - This website contains information about multiple health, family, and mental health conditions, including descriptions, treatment, and resources. This specific page is all about generalized anxiety disorder.