Anxiety Mental Health Spotlight

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) happens when worry gets out of hand.

GAD is not merely feeling anxious about specific events. The worry and tension involved are much more persistent and excessive compared to merely feeling anxious about something that provokes the reaction. Left untreated, it may affect your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of those around you.

Image credit: Health Thoroughfare

“Sometimes I get anxious about certain things, such as being late to exam, does this mean I have GAD?” All of us have felt anxious at some points in life, especially when we face anxiety-provoking situations such as not having sufficient money to pay for rent. However, GAD is not merely feeling anxious about specific events. The worry and tension involved are much more persistent and excessive compared to merely feeling anxious about something that provokes the reaction.

There are various types of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by perpetual and exaggerated worry about many different things in life. A person with GAD may worry so excessively that it interrupts his daily functioning because his worry can get out of hand and he always expects the worst even if there is no apparent reason for such concern.

How do we know if someone has GAD or normal anxiety?

Normal Anxiety

GAD

Worry about certain events or situations

(E.g. There is an appointment with client but get caught up in the middle of a traffic jam)

Constantly worry about almost everything and the worry can get beyond one’s control which indirectly impairs the individual’s important areas of functioning (e.g. social, occupational, academic, etc.)
May find it difficult to concentrate, relax or sleep when being bothered by some significant issues

(E.g. Death or loss of someone important)

Feel restless, irritable, difficult to sleep or concentrate for no apparent reason all the time
Feel tired, muscle pain and tension due to specific events

(E.g. A long and stressful day at work)

Always feel restless, exhausted and muscle pain but not related to any physical or emotional issue and they last for at least 6 months

Specific criteria have been outlined in DSM-5 for diagnosis of GAD:

  • The presence of excessive worry and anxiety for various domains and it occurs more days than not for at least 6 months.
  • The individual has a tough time controlling his worry.
  • If the anxiety and worry experienced are associated with at least 3 of the following symptoms (only one symptom is required for diagnosis of GAD in children) and an individual’s important areas of functioning (e.g. social, occupational, etc.) are impaired due to the anxiety, worry and physical symptoms, the person is said to have GAD. The physical symptoms include:
    • Always feeling on edge or restless
    • Easily exhausted
    • Impaired concentration or mind going blank
    • Easily irritable
    • Muscle pain
    • Impaired sleep (face trouble falling or staying asleep, feel restless or unsatisfying sleep)
  • The symptoms experienced by the individual must not be caused by any other medical condition or the effects of substance use.
  • The symptoms experienced by the individual must also not better explained by other mental disorders.

What are the other signs which you can observe from people with GAD aside from being constantly worried?

  • Perfectionism
    • This is common among adults with GAD. They tend to spend hours to do same tasks repetitively even if they are simple, in order to make sure that they have completed the tasks perfectly.
  • Inability to tolerate with uncertainties
    • People with GAD always try to be 100% sure of the things they do and therefore, they tend to spend a lot of time trying to ensure that they are certain about things, actions or decisions. Some of these behaviors include:
      • Constantly checking and seeking for reassurance even on simple tasks or decisions
      • Passing of decision-making responsibility to others
      • Always avoiding new opportunities or procrastinating
      • Attempting to keep oneself busy for the entire day so that the person is occupied and there is no time to worry about other things

If you think that you have some of the symptoms listed above, perhaps you can take the opportunity to talk to someone you trust about it or consult a healthcare professional. GAD is treatable but if you leave the illness to persist, not only your daily life gets affected, but your relationships with people you love may also be affected as they are not aware that you may be suffering from GAD which brings adverse impacts to your relationships. Thus, for the benefits of yourself and your loved ones, take the initiative to get screened and receive appropriate treatment if you need one.


Sources:

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

https://adaa.org/sites/default/files/July%2015%20GAD_adaa.pdf

https://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/assets/basc-3/basc3resources/DSM5_DiagnosticCriteria_GeneralizedAnxietyDisorder.pdf

https://www.anxietybc.com/adults/generalized-anxiety-disorder

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