Does your heart race before a stressful event? While this is a natural response, excessive, uncontrollable worry can be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.

Generalized anxiety disorder can be debilitating.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be debilitating.
Img Source: Tea Roe, Flickr

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety can affect the way you think. Although the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may vary by individual, the following are common:

  • Obsessive worry and tension
  • Feelings of uneasiness
  • Mood changes
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A feeling of being on edge
  • Fast heart rate
  • A fixation on planning or other details

Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Nervous Temperament: People with a nervous temperament see the world as threatening. If you do not learn how to cope, you’re likely to respond to minor threats as if they were major. 
  • Genetics: Your DNA may predispose you to developing anxiety.
  • Environmental Factors: These include trauma such as sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, or a change in job or financial status. 

Tips For Dealing With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Be more aware of your emotions: Learning to identify and control our triggers can help prevent episodes of anxiety.
  • Medication: These include antidepressants, which have been shown to reduce anxiety. These drugs carry side effects and are only effective while the medication is being taken.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs: These only exacerbate anxiety over the long-term.
  • Have some fun:  Partake in activities you enjoy. These help you connect with the present moment.
  • Exercise: Physical activity causes the release of chemicals that counteract anxiety and low mood. Exercise also gives you time away from worry and provides a more productive use for your nervous energy. Moving your body reduces tension and increases our resilience to adversity.
  • Many of us lack healthy coping skills when faced with hardship. This could result in one feeling like they have no control of the situation. Structured problem solving is useful in minimizing and controlling excessive worry. 
  • Acknowledge your achievements: You may instinctively choose to focus on the things you could’ve done better in a given situation, but you should also recognize what you’ve done well. Celebrating small wins will keep any symptoms of general anxiety at bay.
  • Stay in touch with your emotions: According to research, worry may serve as an escape to emotional processing. This may contribute to worsening symptoms. Try staying in touch with your emotions and accepting that it’s OK to feel them.

Final Thoughts

Treatment for generalized anxiety is only effective if you recognize your unhealthy thought patterns. Only then can you manage your underlying emotions. This will force you to stop and reflect before anxiety has a chance to set in.