Everyone experiences fear and anxiety from time to time, mostly in response to specific situations. However, someone with uncontrollable and irrational worry that persists may have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety disorders can develop in childhood or adulthood. Either way, coping with anxiety on a regular basis can be challenging.
People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about the outcome of events. Long before the time in question, they become preoccupied with the numerous possibilities and outcomes, regardless of the plausibility of these invented scenarios. In severe cases, individuals with GAD may not even have a specific event on which to focus; they may have inexplicable anxiety about mundane and routine things. Constant worry can be severely debilitating. Therapy can help individuals gain perspective through discussion and learn coping mechanisms.
When a person is singularly engaged in worrying about nebulous what-ifs, they will often have difficulty concentrating on the here and now. Because of this, people with generalized anxiety disorder lose focus on what they are doing quickly and are often restless. A typical trait is sitting with half-done work while mulling over inconsequential possibilities. They might also move about needlessly when unoccupied, or check and cross-check details repeatedly. Productivity can drop, especially in stressful situations. Work performance and even personal relationships may become strained as a consequence, which is why treating the condition is so important. If therapy alone is not enough, a doctor might prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
People with anxiety disorders are often indecisive. This indecisiveness is not limited to circumstances with numerous options to choose from: it extends to daily tasks as well. People with GAD often exhibit nervousness when confronted with any choice and find it difficult to arrive at a satisfying decision. Even when they finally make a choice, they may still worry. Ordinary activities like choosing an outfit for a special occasion, buying a gift, or even picking an item on the menu can be a lengthy process for people with GAD. This symptom, though very common, is not often recognized as symptomatic of an anxiety disorder. It is often written off as the person being finicky or choosy.
In addition to situations both real and imagined, people with generalized anxiety disorders also worry about being worrisome. They are usually aware of their anxious nature and thus stress about their mental state preemptively. For instance, when confronted with a future event, they worry about how stressed they are going to be. This vicious cycle can become incapacitating. Additionally, although they are instinctively aware of their psychological proclivities, many don't realize they have a disorder. Recognition that many people experience these feelings can help people with GAD come to terms with their condition.
Enduring mental stress can affect physical health. Many people with generalized anxiety disorder experience fatigue, irritability, and headaches. Mental tension may also provoke muscle tension, leading to frequent aches and pains across the body. Stressful situations may cause such individuals to feel claustrophobic or nauseous. Other than these common physical manifestations, trembling, twitching, and easy startling are also possible.
Another common complaint of individuals with anxiety disorders is profuse sweating. Though sweating is normal to a certain extent, especially with physical activity or warm environments, profuse sweating without any exertion or activity is a sign that something is wrong. An alteration in the physiological balance in the body can cause chemical changes. Anxiety can trigger the same effect.
GAD can cause palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and sometimes loss of consciousness. Struggling to breathe properly without physical exertion is a sign of an anxiety attack. In most cases, slow and deep breathing relieves the feeling of shortness of breath. Breathing slowly may feel counterintuitive, but it often works. However, anyone who experiences repeated instances of shortness of breath, palpitations, fainting, or lightheadedness should seek immediate evaluation from a health professional.
Many people with GAD have intermittent insomnia. They struggle to fall asleep because their minds are racing. Such episodes are usually limited to only a few days, and it's worth seeing a doctor if insomnia continues for longer. It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night with anticipatory anxiety right before a big presentation. However, frequently lying awake without any solid reason could signify a GAD. Almost 50% of people with GAD report sleeping problems.
Anxiety is not always generalized. Some people fear a particular situation or thing, such as animals or flying. Specific fears that become too overwhelming can be indicators of an anxiety disorder. Phobias can be crippling, but they are not always obvious and might not become apparent until the person faces a specific situation. For instance, one could be unaware they have a fear of snakes until they encounter one.
In severe cases, people with GAD develop diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Though anxiety starts in the mind, it manifests with physical symptoms. IBS causes cramping, constipation, and bloating, as well as stomach aches. The condition isn't always a sign of anxiety, but these two conditions often occur together.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.