What Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

NOV, 14; 2020

Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings
-William Shakespeare (Macbeth)

Growing awareness about mental health has imbued the word, 'anxiety', into common vocabulary. However, the simple word encompasses a vast realm of distress and suffering that is yet to be acknowledged and addressed. Here is what you should know about Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

What is GAD?
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterised by 'free floating' anxiety. People suffering from GAD find themselves worrying constantly, even when there isn't a reason to do so. It is common to hear them say, 'I'm constantly worried, but I don't even know why! '. There is a persistent flurry of 'what if… ' scenarios that one cannot find an end to. Any rationalisation tends to last only for a limited period, after which the 'what ifs' resume.

Apart from a constant feeling of impending doom, restlessness and being on edge, one also experiences physical symptoms such as tension headaches, fidgeting, upset stomach, fatigue and muscular tension. This is accompanied by autonomic hyperactivity, which can manifest as an increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, increased breath rate, dry mouth, and the like.

GAD can also manifest in children, and is often indicated by physical symptoms such as stomach pain, and headaches, as well as a disturbed pattern of sleeping and eating. Children suffering from GAD often appear to be on edge and constantly seek reassurance.

Anxiety vs GAD
What differentiates anxiety from GAD is its persistent and pervasive nature. Unlike anxiety, GAD is not restricted to any specific factors. It does not have one or a set number of clearly established causes. Instead, the worry is present throughout the day and is generated over a variety of reasons, such as immediate harm to oneself or others, failing an exam, financial crises, social interactions and even random noises.

In some instances, people with GAD cannot identify any cause for worry at all. One experiences an inability to relax or calm oneself, even in the absence of stressors. There is a sense of apprehension and foreboding, as if something terrible is just about to happen.

Sometimes, GAD also results in what is known as metaworry. Over time, the excessive and non-stop worrying in itself becomes a source of distress. One begins to 'worry about worrying'. This can often include fears regarding the negative effects of worrying on one's health. Metaworry tends to intensify an already stressful cycle of worry.

How can one manage GAD?
If you or anyone you know is suffering from symptoms of GAD, remember that help is available. Contacting a qualified mental health professional can help manage and treat GAD. The benefits of seeking help far outweigh the cost of stigma.

If you are unable to directly access help (for example, if you are a minor), talk to someone you are comfortable with and seek their support in asking for help. Educate yourself about the symptoms of GAD. Religiously engage in activities that help you achieve even a little bit of tranquility - be it sports, dancing, talking to a friend, or writing down your thoughts.

Several people in India and all over the world, of all ages, suffer from GAD. Remember that you are not alone, and that your now is not your forever. As impossible as it may seem, hope exists.