Humans perceive stress as a threat, and most people have stress throughout their lives. When faced with a threat, the mind and body prepare for either a fight or to flee.
This “fight or flight” reaction can make a person feel anxious, especially if the stress involves something new, and they don’t feel prepared or have worry or doubt about facing it.
It’s not uncommon to feel anxious about something new, like the first day at a new job or meeting new people in a social situation.
Those anxious feelings are based on a specific situation and are temporary. For people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, anxious feelings are more wide-spread and persistent.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder causes a person to feel anxious about anything and everything, and to feel that way most of the time. This level of anxiety can affect a person’s ability to function at work, home, and in social situations.
Signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The medical experts at Very Well Mind, an online resource for mental health issues, list these differences between just feeling anxious and Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Anxiety is Severe. While many people feel anxious occasionally, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder have more intense and long-lasting anxious feelings than others. Overall, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are more anxious, more often than their peers.
- Anxiety is Disproportionate. Being anxious because you wonder what your first day at a new job will be like is proportionate to the situation. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder have feelings of anxiety out of proportion to the situation.
For example, they may worry for days before having lunch with friends because they are overly concerned about how they look and what they will say. This can happen even if their friends have never given any indication of disliking them and previous meetings with their friends were enjoyable and happy.
- Anxiety Happens About Everything. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can cause a person to feel anxious first thing in the morning, even if their day will be routine. They worry about the day and what could happen, not only about specific situations and events.
- Anxiety is Hard to Control. Most people use coping techniques, like taking a deep breath, meditation, or exercise, to manage occasional feelings of anxiety. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder find it extremely difficult to quiet their minds and be calm.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The National Institute of Mental Health defines Generalized Anxiety Disorder as “excessive anxiety or worry, on most days, for at least six months.” The anxiety happens about multiple situations and events, including routine life circumstances. The level of anxiety can cause problems with a person’s activities and interactions socially, at work, and home.
Scientists and doctors list these mental and physical symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Being irritable
- Muscle tension and muscle aches
- Worry that is chronic and hard to control
- Sleep problems
- Worry about every negative conclusion to a situation
- Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness
- Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
- Worrying about excessively worrying
- Being easily startled
- Memory problems
- Nausea, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome
- Trembling, feeling twitchy
(Source of symptoms: Mayo Clinic)
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may experience these symptoms intensely and repeatedly. The ongoing level of stress and anxiety they feel can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.
Anyone can experience anxious feelings. Many people have occasional, mild, temporary anxiety when faced with new situations. Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves pervasive, persistent anxious feelings that can interfere with a person’s life.