What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, are extremely worried about these or other things, even when it seems there is no reason to worry. This is a type of worry that disrupts your life most days. Many people with GAD have physical symptoms that can include headaches and being tired all of the time. Anyone can be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at any age, but it usually starts when a person is a child or adolescent. Most people with GAD have felt nervous or anxious for as long as they can remember. Approximately five percent of all people have experienced GAD at some time, with women being twice as likely as men to have experienced it. People with GAD may also have problems with depression, or with other anxiety disorders such as PTSD, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or social anxiety disorder.
What Causes GAD?
Great strides have been made in the treatment of GAD in recent years, but its actual cause remains unknown. Genetic makeup may be a factor as the tendency to have an anxious personality can run in families. Childhood traumas, such as abuse, or the death of a parent, may also make people more prone to anxiety when they are older. In addition, a major stress in life may trigger the condition and the symptoms then persist even after the trigger is gone. Common minor stresses in life that people otherwise cope with then keep the symptoms going once the condition has been triggered. Some individuals who have other mental health problems, such as depression or schizophrenia, may also develop GAD.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Constant Worry
Individuals who struggle with GAD experience persistent and excessive worry that they find difficult to control. Obsessive concern about seemingly insignificant issues is one of the symptoms you need to know. People with GAD will attach their worry to anything in their environment that affects their daily life, including, health, work, finances, safety, and household responsibilities. They get so entangled with their problems that they completely miss out on the big picture.
- Difficulty Concentrating
Another must-know symptom of GAD is a lack of concentration. As a result, people’s work suffers and fulfilling daily responsibilities becomes a challenge. The minds of those with GAD can also go blank at crucial moments, making exam-taking and meetings a challenge. Needless to say, normal life becomes markedly affected.
Irritability is a common symptom of GAD. If you have GAD you are often easily upset, which unfortunately means that those close to you are at risk of you lashing out. Anxiety causes you to feel negative emotions and worrisome thoughts. When you are so close to the edge, it becomes a struggle to maintain your emotions and anything that adds to this just makes it harder to be in control.
Restlessness is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. This is the feeling of being unable to sit still, or feeling as though you are on the edge and something is about to happen or needs to happen. An individual dealing with anxiety experiences a rush of adrenaline, which presents itself as a fight or flight response. The problem is that you experience anxiety and you feel as if you need to do something, but nothing is happening. The adrenaline is flooding into your system and your body does not do anything to use it up. Your system becomes flooded with a surge of energy but without any positive response, and the result is restlessness.
- Sleep Difficulties
Many of us can’t sleep from time to time, and toss and turn or watch the clock. But for individuals with GAD, a restless night is routine. Stress and anxiety interrupt a person’s sleep and the corresponding fatigue distracts from their ability to cope with and respond to everyday life.
Tiredness, exhaustion, and fatigue ? no matter what you may call it ? is a symptom of anxiety that drains away energy and motivation. Fatigue from anxiety usually occurs as a result of constant worry and obsessive concern. The prolonged anxiety that has caused significant stress, emotional drain, and restless sleep contributes to this symptom of fatigue.
- Muscle Tension
One of the most common symptoms for anyone experiencing anxiety is muscle tension. Many people carry tension in their bodies, which often leads to tense shoulders and tense back, jaw, and neck muscles. Generalized anxiety disorder can also manifest itself in clenched jaws and teeth grinding.
A Christian Focus in GAD Treatment
Counseling for GAD is typically focused on changing many of the behavior patterns and automatic thoughts associated with anxiety, which is called cognitive therapy. Learning relaxation techniques, as well as treatment with different types of medications, are also recommended.
As a Christian counselor, I help people to see themselves and their diagnosis from a biblical perspective. Christian counseling teaches that true peace comes from God, so knowing God better will help the individual suffering from GAD to cope with their fears. Since community and peer support is so important for those struggling with GAD, Christian counseling encourages people to regularly be part of a church family. Prayer is also emphasized and can form part of the relaxation techniques. If you recognize the symptoms shared in this article and need someone who can assist you as you work through your anxiety, I would welcome the opportunity.
“The Strategy of Chess,” Courtesy of Ken Teegardin, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Ride through Farytale Forest,” courtesy of Krappweis, Image ID 1407154m freeimages.com