By: Justin Hill
I’m at work, writing up a project and it hits me – the worry, the anxiety. It comes and goes, but it is very persistent. I worry if my work is up to par, whether I am doing it fast enough, what my co-workers are doing/thinking, how my boss sees me. It builds slowly and is a sinking feeling in my chest. It’s uncomfortable and I imagine the worst-case scenarios. It sucks. This is my experience of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) “affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1 percent of the U. S. population.” GAD is characterized by extreme worry, and it’s also more than just the normal anxiety that people typically experience. People with GAD may find it difficult to keep their worry at a minimal level. In fact, they tend to worry more about events when there is really not much to worry about.
GAD sufferers tend to excessively worry about health, money, family, work, or school. They may blow their worry out of proportion, which sends them on a roller-coaster of a ride in terms of how it makes them feel. It may start as a simple worry, but if it becomes an incessant worry that repeats itself, you may have GAD.
It also helps to be able to distinguish the difference between worry and anxiety. Psychology Today has an article on some of the differences. Here’s another quick example from Psych Central about normal worry and GAD. Just keep in mind that worry and anxiety are, according to Psychology Today, “different psychological states.” In other words, worrying about something is generally normal, which can make you feel somewhat anxious. If it becomes a repetitive, interfering force (over worrying, which can lead to increased anxiety), then it can be disruptive toward your emotional and psychological states.
Want to know if you suffer from GAD? Well, there are two things you can do. First, get a professional opinion – one from a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. You can talk with one and they will be able to tell you if you suffer from GAD or not.
If you are curious about it in general, I suggest checking out the following two resources on GAD self-screening:
Before providing some strategies to help with GAD, I wanted to make a quick comment:
Keep in mind that these techniques for coping are just that – they help to manage it, not eliminate it.
Identify the Source
When it comes to stress, worry, and anxiety, we have a hard time identifying it. With GAD, it’s important to concretely define what the source is that’s causing it.
I remember listening to a program where the speaker (whom happened to also be a psychiatrist) discussed a patient that was super anxious and wanted medication. The doctor mined for information and after some back and forth, realized that the anxiety was coming from his girlfriend that was in essence manipulating him, using hard drugs, and making her issues his. The psychiatrist suggested cutting the girlfriend loose in a mature manner, and how that may help both of them. After the patient made the crucial move, he felt less anxious. By discovering the source of the anxiety, the man was able to take care of it, and thus help his anxiety levels.
What’s the source of your anxiety?
Try to figure it out. Talk with a friend, if that helps. Or better yet, have a discussion with a therapist. But, if you take a moment and really think about it, I’m sure you can figure out the source. Once you figure that out, you can takes measures to diminish it.
Once you identify the problem, the best thing to do against the anxiety is to act on it. Anxiety compounds on itself by repeating in your head. You think about, you pontificate on it, and before you know it, the anxiety producing stimulus has just exploded exponentially, when it only happened once.
For example, my car was making more-than-usual weird noises. I didn’t know what to do and it was late. What if the car didn’t work tomorrow? How much would it cost if it did indeed explode? What if I got a ticket, a boot, or it got towed?... Notice a pattern here? All of these thoughts are hypothetical, and they are all negative.
A better way to deal with it was what my dad suggested over the phone – check the fluids in the morning, and if any were low, it could prove useful to refill them. If not, just take it easy on the car, and keep an eye on it. Done.
As a GAD sufferer, there’s always two roads (well, sometimes more): the hypothetical disaster, or the more general “truth.” I put the more general truth in quotes because no one knows the future, but most of the time our GAD hypothetical mind takes us down a dark and twisty road fraught with disaster as a potential future (the general "truth"). The reality is this: It’s never really THAT bad.
So, take the realistic action, even if it means dropping it for now and making a list of action steps to move on as soon as possible. Write them down if it helps, so they are out of your mind and ready to be implemented on.
Exercise has many benefits, like an improved mood, and thus less anxiety. Something as simple as a 45-minute walk can help. And, it doesn’t have to be walking. Jot a list down of a few physically active things you can do during your day, and try them out. Try doing that activity three to four times a week, and gauge how you feel after and how it helps you improve overall. Small adjustments can affect big change.
Finally, I’ve said it time and time again, and I will keep saying it: it's never a bad idea to seek professional help. In fact, seeing a therapist can be one of the best actions to take against anxiety.
There you have it. Again, I hope the information and advice helps you out. Let me know what you think below.
If you are curious to know more about GAD and tips on dealing with it, check out the following articles:
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