NORMAL ANXIETY vs GAD (GENERAL ANXIETY DISORDER)

Do you worry all the time about non-specific things? Do you get butterflies in your stomach the night before going on vacation or taking a big exam? Does your heart pound before asking your boss of a raise? Are you worried about family problems? These feelings of anxiety are a normal reaction to stress, a natural reaction to every day events. Anxiety can be positive. It helps you cope with some situations while keeping you focused.

But, living with the stresses in today's world you may feel overwhelmed by these worries which may impact and interfere with your daily life. If you spend most of the day worrying about things that may never happen or can't identify the reason for the tension you are feeling, you  may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. When your worries interfere with your ability to function during the day or constantly keep you up at night you may be suffering from GAD (General Anxiety Disorder). This can drain you energy, interfere with sleep and generally wear you out. Fortunately, there are many ways to resolve this issue and regain control of your life. GAD involves chronic worrying and feelings of nervousness and tension. The anxiety is nonspecific, a general feeling of unease that encompasses your whole life. With GAD it is very difficult to turn off your thoughts. The difference between normal worrying and GAD is that the worrying in GAD is excessive, persistent, debilitating.  You may worry about the same things that other people do but take it to a higher level of intensity.

Ex. Joe had a meeting with his supervisor at work to discuss the annual review. Although Joe and his boss developed a plan to help improve his performance in one specific area, Joe assumed that meant he would eventually be fired if he didn't show progress immediately. He was not able to focus on the identified task and or use his anxiety in a positive way to move forward. His worry became excessive, affecting areas of his performance that were not a problem.

Ex. Mary has always been a worrier but it had never interfered with her life. She experienced normal anxiety. Recently she is having difficulty sleeping, she has feelings of dread, is unable to concentrate at work or relax at home. Mary began to have difficulty sleeping and could not even stop these intrusive thoughts during the day. Since the intensity of the change was gradual Mary was unable to pinpoint a specific cause.

Not everyone suffers from the same symptoms but a combination of emotional, behavioral or physical symptoms. A few emotional reactions may include constant worrying, with nothing you can do to stop the worrying. There may be intrusive thoughts of feelings of dread. Physical reactions could include muscle tension, body aches, sleep disturbances, or stomach problems. Behavioral symptoms often include the inability to relax, difficulty concentrating, procrastinating or avoiding situations that make you anxious.

A few techniques to help reduce feelings of GAD

  • Remember anxiety is just a feeling from a perceived threat. Our body goes into a protective mode. Breathing exercises can help relax you. Our bodies can't be anxious and relaxed at the same time.
  • Accept your anxiety. Don't fight it. When you resist it you prolong the feelings. Take back the control, don't let the anxiety control you.
  • Remember what you fear the most rarely happens. On a scale of 1-10 with ten being the worst fear, most fears are in the lower part of the scale, rarely the worst case scenario.
  • One of the best ways to relieve anxiety is exercise which relieves stress, boosts energy. If you've tried self help and you are unable to get rid of your worries and fears it may be time to seek professional help. Therapy is effective in the treatment of GAD. 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) often shows the best results. CBT examines the distortions in the way we think and behaviors that will bring positive change.

Call Judith Glick,'LCSW, 201-657-5682 for a free phone consultation