What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Most of worry to some of extent, but some of us worry so much that it interferes with our daily lives. Some degree of worry can propel us to make changes in our lives, but excessive worry is unproductive and uncomfortable. It robs us of the enjoyment of life. So what exactly is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Julie turned up at the clinic complaining of disabling anxiety and difficulty controlling her life. She claimed she never felt contented or at peace, but continually worried about every aspect of her life. As one difficulty was overcome, she would replace it with excessive worry about another issue. Yet, in themselves, none of these issues were in any way life threatening or even life changing.

A student, she was convinced she would fail every subject. A single mom, she worried that her son would become ill and she wouldn’t be able to cope with looking after him and continue her studies. Yet her son was not ill and to date she was achieving well at college. She had also met a man who she was interested in and she had dated once or twice. But she was also consumed with worry over the relationship and that he probably found her boring. Even though her new partner called her regularly and gave no sign of being “bored”, Julie was convinced that she was uninteresting and she would ultimately lose him.

Julie was also concerned about her health. She suffered from migraines that were related to stress and her immune system was poor. Her mother had suffered a heart attack two years previously and recovered well, yet Julie was convinced she was heading for the same fate. She was also concerned about her relationship with her mother and the rest of her family and often spent nights mulling over conversations that had taken place at the latest family reunion.

Julie also had few friends. Although she had an attractive and caring personality, she continually burdened her friends with her endless concerns. Unable to take on board their reassurances that “everything would be all right”, Julie found that she was slowly marginalized by her long-term friends. This was yet another issue for Julie to concern herself with.

She worried about her weight, her assignments, her old age (even though that was several decades away) and her general future. She worried about being worried. There was truly no peace for Julie.

In the next blog we will look at diagnostic criteria for GAD and treatment options for this disturbing condition.

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