Living with Daily Worry & Chronic Stress
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects over 6.8 million adults in the US. It is a condition characterized by persistent and excessive worry about many different stressors. People living with GAD experience bias toward specific anticipatory stressors such as fears about financial security, failing health, the wellbeing of others, negative consequences, or other common themes related to “general” life issues.
People struggling with GAD find it difficult to control thoughts and feelings that prompt fear and worry. They worry intensity, and the level of concern does not match the facts of a situation.
GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months.
Additional Information about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Women are twice as likely to be affected and/or more likely to seek help.
- Men often need encouragement to get help for anxiety conditions.
- The disorder may come on gradually, rapidly after an adverse event, or after a life-challenging event.
- GAD may present at any time in the life cycle with the highest risk between childhood and middle age.
- GAD has biological factors, and multiple family members may report symptoms.
- GAD may be situational if a person’s life stressors are higher than their ability to cope with physical symptoms and/or the ability to problem-solve.
What’s It Like to Live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Many people living with GAD report fatigue from daily stress and worry. They often report an inability to shift their thoughts away from worry, and feel a sense of being out of control.
Some people will report good insight that their fears are unhelpful, while others say a strong sense that their concerns are real even though the fear level does not fit the situation.
Regardless of the anxiety disorder, including GAD, people will report a difficulty tolerating uncertainty. Naturally, when people can identify a fear, they will attempt to plan ahead or try to control the situation. This may result in people creating habits or coping strategies to avoid anxiety triggers. This can mean avoiding certain people or locations, fixating on relief rather than active learning, and living outside a person’s value system.
Physical sensations are reported with GAD. Common physical symptoms are stomach discomfort, headaches, and pressure in the chest.
Is Medication Necessary?
Most experts agree that when a person’s anxiety level is mild to moderate, counseling therapy is the best course of action. Even though GAD creates cognitive, emotional, and physical discomfort, most people living with GAD can function daily, parent, study, and maintain employment.
However, once the severity of anxiety is severe, medication management is usually recommended with counseling therapy. If a person’s anxiety level is severe, it can be challenging to carry out even the simplest daily activities. People often report feeling paralyzed by their anxiety symptoms.
The goal of medication treatment is not to stop all worry and anxiety sensations. Concern and anxiety are healthy states of cognitive and emotional being. The purpose of medication treatment is to reduce the intensity of symptoms so a person can engage in active therapy and experiential learning.