In this article, I will share some of the many generalized anxiety disorder symptoms and how you can learn to manage them well. This is Part 1 in a series.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is defined as:
- The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive.
In adults, the worry can be about job responsibilities or performance, one’s own health or the health of family members, financial matters, and other everyday, typical life circumstances. Of note, in children, the worry is more likely to be about their abilities or the quality of their performance (for example, in school).
- The worry is experienced as very challenging to control.
Worry in both adults and children may shift from one topic to another.
- The anxiety and worry is associated with at least three of the following physical or cognitive generalized anxiety disorder symptoms:
(In children, only one symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD.)
- Edginess or restlessness.
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual.
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank.
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others).
- Increased muscle aches or soreness.
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).
Many individuals with GAD also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea, or diarrhea.
- The anxiety, worry, or associated symptoms make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems in relationships, at work, or in other important areas.
- These symptoms are unrelated to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by the effect of substances including a prescription medication, alcohol or recreational drugs.
- These symptoms are not better explained by a different mental disorder.
(Note: Normal worry is referring to situation-specific worry, which resolves with the resolution of the situation. Excessive worry is referring to an excessive, time-consuming worry that just gets replaced with a new worry whenever the situation is resolved.)
- “I am worried about my daughter being safe on a mountain-climbing expedition.” This is an example of normal worry; when the daughter returns from the expedition, the parent feels at peace and free from worry.
“Every time my daughter leaves the house, I worry that she will not return home safely.” This is an example of excessive worry; when the daughter returns home safely, the worry gets replaced with yet another worry, i.e. “What if that chicken sandwich my daughter is about to eat has undercooked chicken and she will get salmonella poisioning…”
- “I worry about how I will pay a bill that is unexpected, and I try to figure it out.” (normal worry)
“I worry every day about how I would manage financially if I lost my job.” (excessive worry)
For someone who believes he/she may be struggling with the physical generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, Dr. Wehrenberg suggests focusing on these two factors to start: Intake and Relaxation.
Intake is referring to any type of food or drink that affect one’s physiology negatively, such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, other sweeteners, and tobacco. Intake also refers to social media and/or checking frequently one’s email.
To begin, simply start noticing the connection between intake and feelings of anxiety and/or panic. Have a cup of coffee, then wait 45 minutes. Write down any physical sensations you notice. Or spend a half hour on Facebook, then sit quietly and notice any changes in our body – increased tension, sadness, and/or stress. Again, this is the first step: simply NOTICE any connections.
Relaxation is crucial to learning to cope with generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Relaxation does not come naturally for a person who has GAD. He/she has adapted to living with a certain level of anxiety, which may be accompanied by tension headaches, indigestion, sore jaw from clenching during the night, or pain and tightness in the neck and shoulders.
If you think you may be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, please consider calling a Christian counselor to help you assess and begin successfully managing this anxiety. You do not have to feel hindered in your everyday life. You can be successful in your job, daily life, and relationships. This could be the first step in your healing.
“Deep-thinking,” courtesy of Eneas De Troya, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Employee Readying Documents,” courtesy of Stuart Miles, Freedigitalphotos.net ID 10056727; “I haven’t had a migraine in years,” Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)