As someone diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I was often faced with the question of “Am I just an anxious person or do I have a disorder?”. Many mental illnesses tend to get romanticized through the media. People with GAD are seen as just being worrisome and shy people, but in fact there are serious symptoms that can manifest with this disorder.
Everyone gets worried and anxious from time to time, these are normal responses to stressful situations. However, when the anxiety prohibits you from functioning in your everyday life, this is when we are entering into a medical illness requiring treatment.
There are a few key distinctions between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder which include:
- Normal anxiety can be triggered by stressful events such as interviews, first day of school, tests, and more. People with anxiety disorder tend to worry about everything and may have a hard time identifying any specific triggers to their worries.
- Most instances of normal anxiety are brief in duration. However, someone with anxiety disorder can go weeks with anticipatory anxiety as well as intense anxiety during a stressful event.
- Anxiety disorder impairs you from doing the things you normally would enjoy or do. Some people may have a hard time going to work, school, or even leaving their house because of fear of anticipated or low probability events.
- Anxiety disorder can include many debilitating symptoms such as: excessive worrying about things that are beyond your control, fatigue, lack of concentration, nausea, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath and more.
Having an anxiety disorder involves much more than just being worried. It’s an intense worry and fear that can be caused either by biological, psychological, and/or sociological factors. Those of us with GAD can panic to point where it can lead to agoraphobia which is the another disorder for being afraid to leave your home.
Receiving a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety disorder can cause lots of confusion, but at the same time it can also be a relief. All the excessive worrying and fear, now has a name and plan of action can be developed to treat it. Whether you have normal anxiety or an anxiety disorder remember that you are not alone and help is available.
If you are not sure who to contact, the National Institute of Mental Health has a 24 hour crisis hotline and resource center. You can reach them at 1-888-826-9438, or visit their website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
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