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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is what my therapist diagnosed me with in late 2016 leading up to the end of my first job, a 2-year assignment that did not receive an extension.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
GAD really is “generalized.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines it like this:
“(GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern.” (ADAA)
It’s anxiety about all the things, all the time.
This is certainly how I felt when I walked into my therapist’s office for the first time. I just didn’t know that it had a name, or that other people experience it too.
About 3% of adults in the United States have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and diagnosis is twice as likely for women than men.
GAD rarely occurs by itself. Other anxiety disorders and depression can accompany it.
The symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder overlap with other mental health issues. To ensure a correct diagnosis, please see a therapist.
- Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
- A sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Excessive worry
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperventilation, excessive sweating, and/or trembling
- Fatigue, weakness, and tiredness
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Insomnia and sleep disturbance
Of these symptoms, I experienced nervousness, excessive worry, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating or focusing.
You should start with therapy. Simply talking about it helped me, and my therapist helped me build skills and understanding for how to manage my GAD without medication.
Other ways to treat GAD on your own include meditation and mindfulness practices, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, relaxation techniques, and paying attention to what you eat. It turns out that turmeric can help as a complementary treatment to alleviate depression, anxiety, and stress.
If your therapist or psychiatrist determines that medication is an appropriate course, then try medication.
Ways I Manage My Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Prayer—giving my anxiety to God really helps me. I know there’s nothing He can’t handle, so it’s a major relief to remember time and time again that He can handle it for me.
Meditation—acknowledging thoughts and letting them go without rumination. Many people seem to think that if their mind wanders during meditation that they’re doing it wrong! If your mind doesn’t wander during meditation, I’d worry… The key is to come back to your anchor when you realize you’ve drifted off into the weeds.
Deep breathing—lowers the heart rate and calms the racing thoughts.
Brain dumps—getting things out of my head and onto the paper makes it easier to work through them. The tactile experience of writing things down helps me frame them up and identify which things I really need to focus on and which things I can let go.
Brooke Castillo’s Model—we can’t control circumstances, but we control our thoughts. Thoughts drive feelings, which drive actions, which bring results.
Talking about anxiety-producing things with my husband and best friend—talking is cathartic and I find alternative perspectives useful. Sometimes I just need to vent, and other times I want solutions for the things aggravating my anxiety.
Listening to self-help and personal growth podcasts—these are other ways to get alternative perspectives. My favorites right now are The Life Coach School Podcast and Happier with Gretchen Rubin.
Understanding when I need to take a break—and then taking it. Working too hard for too long is a recipe for burnout, especially with anxiety. This can look like clearing my calendar in the evening or taking a mental health day from work.
Appropriately timed napping—sometimes the one thing you need to do is just take a nap.
Things to Remember
You are not alone. You are not without help. GAD feels isolating, smothering, and hopeless, but I promise that if you seek help beyond yourself, it’s possible to overcome or manage it.