The word “general” can make something sound like it isn’t very serious or very specific.
For example, someone who tells you they were a “general studies” major in college might seem as though they really aren’t telling you anything at all. It seems sort of, you know, general. Maybe even kind of generic.
So when we hear the term “generalized anxiety disorder,” it is easy to fall into the same sort of thinking. We hear “generalized” and think it describes something that isn’t all that serious. It’s just kind of general and nonspecific and hard to define.
But generalized anxiety disorder is a specific thing. In fact, it is one of a number of different anxiety disorders. And for a person suffering from the condition, it is absolutely real, specific, serious, and capable of making day-to-day life extremely difficult.
Giving Some Specificity to Generalized Anxiety Disorder
In a certain sense, the word “generalized” is used to describe what the anxiety is not rather than what it is. Generalized anxiety disorder, for example, is not the same as social anxiety disorder. It isn’t the same as panic disorder. It isn’t the same as an anxiety disorder caused by substance use (or misuse) or a medical condition.
Sure, you might be saying. I get that it isn’t any of those other things. But how about telling us what it is? Just what is generalized anxiety disorder?
A Closer Look
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive and ongoing worry about day-to-day activities and situations—even the most mundane, non-threatening, non-stressful situations. A person suffering from generalized anxiety disorder might well feel like they simply cannot stop worrying, even when they are fully aware that their worry is way out of proportion to current stressors in their life.
It is this persistence that sets generalized anxiety disorder apart from the worries all of us experience. There’s no doubt that all of us feel anxious sometimes—sometimes out of proportion to the situation. But for most folks, those feelings are temporary and often sort themselves out as a given situation is resolved.
But for the person with generalized anxiety disorder, the anxiety never takes a break. No matter what does or doesn’t get resolved, the anxiety remains. It may be assigned to something new, but the object of the anxiety is almost beside the point. The anxiety itself—and the fact that it never shuts down—is the point.
Specificity About Symptoms
When it comes to generalized anxiety disorder, the most telling symptom is one we have already mentioned: persistent feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or tension and/or the persistent sense that they are in danger or that everything is about to fall apart.
That is to say: the persistent presence of anxiety.
But there are other symptoms as well. They may include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Insomnia (even though persistent anxiety can to lead feelings of exhaustion)
- Sweating, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), and/or an increased heart rate
- A sense of weakness and/or trembling
- Ongoing difficulty concentrating because the anxiety pushes other thoughts aside
- A tendency to avoid any places, people, or things that might make the ongoing anxiety even worse
If You Are Dealing With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, It’s Time to Take Specific Action
So what should you do if you are experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety?
It’s time to see a doctor and/or a therapist who can help you find solutions that will lessen the ongoing feelings of anxiety you are experiencing.
Johnstown Heights Can Help
The team at Johnstown Heights has both the compassion and the expertise necessary to effectively treat any anxiety disorder. We are committed to listening to you, understanding your specific situation and needs, and personalizing your treatment so that you can make real and steady progress to limiting the role anxiety plays in your daily life.
We understand that there is a potential for irony here. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel anxious about seeking out help. That hardly seems fair, right? But overcoming that specific worry is the first step toward getting more control over all of the worries that are currently threatening to overwhelm you. Take that step and let us help.