What is generalized anxiety?
The definition of Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is that it is an extremely common condition with harmful consequences for health and quality of life. It is a member of the family of anxiety disorders, along with phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and OCD. It refers to a pathological state of permanent anxiety that interferes with daily life and causes suffering.
While it is a normal experience for any individual to experience stress and anxiety at various times in their life, it is considered pathological when a person experiences high levels of anxiety continuously and/or chronically over a period of several months in different types of situations in different areas of life (personal, professional, family, etc.). In this case, it is called generalised anxiety disorder or GAD, which is very often extremely disabling in the sense that it is not limited to a specific object on which the anxieties are focused, as is the case with other anxiety disorders such as, for example, specific phobias.
Indeed, it is necessary to conceive that this perpetual anxiety is the product of a dysfunctional thought system which forces the individual to consider almost exclusively the negative outcomes of each situation in which he finds himself. It manifests itself as constant unhappiness, intense distress because every event is then the subject of strong anxieties that the individual tries but fails to overcome. Generalized anxiety is really like a vicious circle in the sense that every negative thought leads to other negative ideas that lock in and reinforce this system of thoughts that is harmful to health. In acute episodes of anxiety, GAD can culminate in panic attacks which in turn become a new cause of anxiety.
Worrying to cope with ‘dangers
“No matter how much I’m reasoned with, I can’t help it.”
Who is affected by GAD?
Generalized anxiety disorder is a particularly common disorder worldwide. It is estimated that 6% of the population develops GAD in their lifetime. In general, it often occurs in young people, in their early teens or adulthood, but can also appear later in life. Statistically, women are twice as affected as men. GAD develops gradually and is facilitated by a tendency to worry that can begin in childhood, making it one of the most stable anxiety disorders because it is deeply rooted in the subject’s functioning. It has also been shown that generalized anxiety was more frequent after a separation, a divorce and in situations of inactivity.
Intolerance of uncertainty is often identified as the central characteristic in the individual to explain the onset and deployment of generalised anxiety. This intolerance is defined as the inability of a person to accept the possibility that even the smallest negative event may occur. It is this trait that will therefore contribute greatly to the rumination on disaster scenarios, as worrying and thinking about them constantly is seen as a way of preventing, of escaping the imagined and envisaged negative outcomes.
Studies show that an individual without an anxiety disorder spends an average of 55 minutes worrying in a day compared to more than 5 hours for a person with generalised anxiety.
The main symptoms of GAD
A person with GAD is constantly overwhelmed by anxieties that could affect all areas of their life. He or she will worry about situations related to his or her professional life, family life or even events in the world in a completely uncontrollable way. The intense anxiety that is constantly felt takes on different somatic forms. Thus, people suffering from GAD may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Great difficulty in concentrating or remembering;
- Feeling overexcited or nervous ;
- Fatigability ;
- Irritability ;
- Muscle tension;
- Insomnia or very poor sleep quality ;
- Dizziness, dizziness or feeling of impending faintness;
- Nausea ;
- Palpitations and increased heart rate.
In general, GAD sufferers experience diffuse residual pain that is difficult to identify precisely. These pains are the result of a continuous state of tension that exhausts the individual mentally and physically. When anxiety reaches particularly high levels, it is not uncommon to experience episodes of panic attacks.
As a result, GAD causes individuals to live in systematic anxious anticipation of every situation they experience, believing that a catastrophe is about to occur at any moment, and of their own negative emotional reactions.