Generalized Anxiety Disorder: What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a debilitating condition that can significantly affect the quality of your day-to-day life. The disorder can develop in childhood or adulthood and lead to a variety of symptoms that make it difficult to carry out daily functions. 

Medical professionals have studied GAD and compiled a list of common signs and symptoms. While the origins of the disorder are unclear and differ from person to person, knowing the symptoms is a step towards recovery. 

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People who suffer from GAD can present a wide range of symptoms. People with the condition won’t always have all the symptoms, so it can be difficult to diagnose if there are only a few symptoms present. Additionally, individuals won’t meet the criteria for GAD if the symptoms are only present some of the time. 

To be diagnosed with GAD, a range of symptoms must be present for months on end, and they should be present on almost a daily basis. Many of the symptoms of the condition are perfectly natural and experienced by almost all human beings at some point in their lives. However, with GAD, these problems persist over months and years.

If you’re wondering, “what is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?” Here are the signs and symptoms of GAD:

Overthinking 

One of the most common signs of GAD is persistent overthinking. This entails ruminating over things to an excessive degree, allowing your inner thoughts to overwhelm your daily function. Overthinkers will typically run through all kinds of scenarios and outcomes in their mind, often focusing on the most negative aspects.  

By consistently thinking negatively about life, overthinkers will only worsen their anxiety symptoms. While most people have experienced overthinking in some form, with GAD, it can prove almost impossible to stop the ceaseless flow of thoughts. 

Persistent Nervousness 

Those with GAD will usually have a persistent sense of anxiety and fear in their daily lives, without any apparent reason. This can cause a variety of problems, including social anxiety, reduced professional performance, and problems with interpersonal relationships.  

Being constantly on edge can also cause overreactions to events in the outside world, with small gestures or words commonly interpreted far out of proportion to their real meaning. It can make it difficult to spend your alone time productively, as your mind and body are constantly on edge and you can never relax. 

Indecisiveness 

One of the most damaging aspects of GAD is how it impairs decision making. When individuals are full anxieties and doubts, it becomes extremely difficult to make definitive decisions in life. When the mind is experiencing stress and anxiety, it tends to lack any kind of focus and becomes overwhelmed.  

Many GAD sufferers will find basic decision making to be a very stressful task. This is especially understandable when factors such as overthinking come into play, as the mind simply can’t process so many conflicting thought processes. 

Avoidance

With GAD, things can seem a lot more threatening than they really are. Simple activities like walking to the supermarket or meeting new people can appear daunting, as the individual is highly sensitive to the possibility that something might go wrong.

What individuals will then do is simply avoid these situations completely. Unfortunately, this can worsen the condition since you’re never exposing yourself to these difficult situations to overcome them. 

Insomnia

With the persistent anxiety of the condition afflicting sufferers at all hours of the day, getting a healthy amount of sleep can prove troublesome. 

People with GAD will experience insomnia, whether infrequently or on a nightly basis. This can be due to other symptoms of the condition, such as overthinking or stress, and the lack of sleep can create a vicious cycle, which perpetuates symptoms. 

Physical Aching and Tensing 

While the most talked-about symptoms of GAD tend to involve its emotional and psychological effects, it can have a variety of physiological impacts too. One of the side-effects of constant anxiety is the tensing of muscles due to experiencing a high level of cognitive tension. 

Those with anxiety will often subconsciously keep their muscles in a tense state without even realizing it. Common areas of the body suffering from aches and tension include the jaw, shoulders, and the abdomen. This can cause a persistent feeling of aching that further adds to the discomfort caused by the condition.

Heart Palpitations

Whenever an individual experiences fear, the heart rate can dramatically increase as your body becomes geared towards coping with a threat. With persistent anxiety, the heart rate can be in an almost permanently elevated state, leading to very uncomfortable feelings of heart palpitations. 

Having an elevated heart rate for most of the day also leads to all manner of health problems, including inflammation, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.  

Frequent Fatigue

Since your body is in a constant state of nervousness and restlessness, anxiety can be exhausting. With excessive rumination, elevated heart rate, and physical tension, GAD can quickly tax your energy levels. 

Many sufferers of the condition will experience a sudden crash of fatigue. This is a sign that your mind and body is never in a relaxed state – where it can rejuvenate and stabilize your energy levels. Consider implementing a healthy eating regimen to combat the symptoms of fatigue.

Conclusion

If you don’t seek out medical help and educate yourself on the condition, living with GAD can be incredibly difficult. There are a huge range of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms associated with the disorder, so a diagnosis can be quite difficult. The biggest giveaway is the sheer persistence of symptoms that will continue unabated over months and years.  

If you believe you’re suffering from GAD, it’s worth exploring the condition more thoroughly and then setting up an appointment with a medical professional. Although a doctor will provide invaluable input to your life, don’t forget to be kind to yourself and shoulder your share of the responsibility.

Clint Byers is a psychiatrist who devotes his time and effort in diagnosing and treating mentally ill individuals. Clint is also responsible for regularly monitoring his clients to ensure that treatment solutions are effective and safe.   When Clint is not busy working with clients in his office, he loves to publish articles about mental health. 

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