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Anxiety is a typical response to various events and situations in life. It can be considered as an in-built warning system in the human body that alerts a person to threats and dangerous situations. It helps in preparing the body to retaliate or flee. Thus, when manageable, anxiety can be useful. It creates motivation for preparing oneself for crucial tasks. However, when anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it cannot be managed, and is triggered without warning, it becomes a problem. It is then considered as a disorder and leaves an enormous impact on the sufferer's life. The symptoms are debilitating and can lead to disruption in physical health as well. Nevertheless, generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is can be treated when detected. Thus, it is vital to know the distinction between normal anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder to enable a person to seek help at the right time.
Symptoms of GAD
The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder differ from person to person. The most common symptom is continuously worrying about events. The anxiety is out of proportion to the possible effect of the situation.
Perceiving situations as hostile even when they are not is another common aspect of GAD. The sufferers are always feeling on edge. Restlessness is persistent in them. People affected by GAD are unable to deal with uncertainty. They tend to over-think and brood over worst-case scenarios. People suffering from GAD fail to be decisive, owing to their dread of making a wrong decision. They are unable to focus, or else, have a feeling of the mind "going blank" ("Generalized anxiety disorder," 2017).
GAD also leads to physical symptoms like difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep, excessive tiredness, unexplained aches, and pains in the muscles. Feeling nervous or getting startled easily with no significant cause is common. Profuse sweating, trembling, irritability, or feeling nauseous, upset stomach, or having IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are some of the common physical manifestations of GAD (Meek, 2019).
How to Differentiate between Normal Anxiety and GAD?
People having normal anxiety feel anxious about a particular event, like upcoming examinations or deadlines for work. They can control their anxiety with various coping mechanisms (Rose, 2019). However, patients of GAD suffer from chronic and continuous worry that is largely unsubstantiated. The worry leads to disruptions in social life, profession, schoolwork, and even in interactions with family.
Persons feeling normal anxiety can have trouble in relaxing, falling asleep, or lack of concentration when they face a stressful situation like the loss of a loved one, critical ailment, or problems in career. However, in persons with GAD, problems in focusing, insomnia, irritability, and agitation persist for a long time and stem from no ostensible reason.
Intensity and Duration
Stress, fatigue, and muscle aches in people having normal anxiety can be related to specific situations or circumstances like a grueling day or overexertion with physical activities. However, patients with GAD suffer from symptoms like exhaustion, pains in muscles, and restiveness for over six months without any relatable cause.
How can GAD be Treated?
GAD is manageable with treatment ("Generalized Anxiety Disorder"). Apart from medications, therapies like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), anxiety management, and other such approaches help in improving the quality of life. A doctor can recommend one or a combination of medication and therapy and tailor the course of treatment to the individual need of the patient.
Understanding the causes, knowing the symptoms, and connecting with mental health professionals and support groups can help people suffering from this incapacitating condition. Seeking help in time can prevent GAD from interfering with the daily activities of the patients and help them live a productive life.
Difference between anxiety and GAD
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