When Anxiety Becomes Unhealthy
In our world, many things can cause anxiety. Is it school, job, or life’s next step? Is it relationship status, marriage, or kids? How about the safety of loved ones? At some point, every human being is anxious about a certain aspect of life or just life in general. Even though anxiety is natural, it can be harmful if it is excessive, lasts for extended amounts of time or becomes crippling to other areas of life.
When does anxiety become unhealthy?
If anxiety, fear, or worry is consistently present in common life situations, one could be experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is considered to be the “general” or “basic” anxiety disorder.1 It is characterized by anxiety that is not related to any specific cause or situation2 and is chronic, as it consists of excessive or unrealistic worry and anxiety lasting at least six months or longer.3 GAD is characterized by more days with worry than without,4 and individuals who suffer from GAD have a hard time controlling their anxiety, fears and worries.5
Specifically, three factors differentiate GAD from normal levels of anxiety. First, worries connected with GAD are excessive and negatively impact psychosocial functioning — in comparison to the appropriate worries of everyday life, which are not excessive, more manageable and easily let go. Second, worries connected with GAD are all-encompassing, obvious, continual, distressing and occur without a specific, appropriate cause. The broader the range of life circumstances a person worries about, the more likely one is to experience GAD. Third, GAD is accompanied with physical symptoms, whereas common, everyday, life worries are typically not accompanied by physical symptoms.6
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The consequences of GAD include both physical and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, sweating and skin flushing, muscle tension, headaches, problems with sleeping, changes in appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and feeling keyed up or on edge.7
The mental symptoms of GAD affect one’s life by impairing the functions of life. For instance, excessive worry and anxiety can keep one from being able to do life tasks quickly and efficiently, whether at work, at home, or in relationships. This excessive worry and anxiety takes time, which could be spent in more positive ways. It can also affect one’s relationship with a spouse, children, and friends.8
Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The goal for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is to completely remove the unhealthy worry and anxiety and return to a healthy, functioning state. Generally, there are two types of treatment for GAD — pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy — both treatment types are effective and can be used together or separately.9
By Cassie Carrigan
6,8 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
2 Dinsmoor, R. S., Odle, T. G., & Cataldo, L. J. (2011). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In L. J. Fundukian (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (4th ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1861-1863). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX1919600738&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&asid=1a24bba0f0231a740b1df6ab31892d8b
1 Maddux, J. and Winstead, B. (2012). Psychopathology: Foundations for a contemporary understanding (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge-Taylor & Francis Group.
9 Stein, D. J. (2013). Generalised anxiety disorder. South African Journal of Psychiatry, 19(3), 175+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA343258865&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=8c8d4a7fe58d76d20f38da651b901cc4
4 Thomas, J (2009).[Psychopathology and Counseling: Anxiety Disorders]. Liberty University.
3,5,7 Torpy, J. M., M.D., & Burke, A. E., M.A. (2011). Generalized anxiety disorder. JAMA, 305(5), 522. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/852579406?accountid=12085