Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Worry and tension: Generalized anxiety disorder

I feel the effects of the adrenaline, a hyper feeling. My heart beats faster. Sometimes my arms feel numb. I can’t settle down to do anything. I walk around the house a lot, watch TV for a couple of minutes, go into the kitchen and eat something, fast, then open up a book and try to read, then walk around some more.
If I’m at work, I get up and walk around, too. When at my desk, I swing around in my chair. I write in spurts before I have to stop again.
My jaw stays tight. Every now and then, I realize I have my lips pursed, held firmly, tightly.
I may have nausea. I may have diarrhea. I may get a headache. My hands may shake.
I feel exhausted much of the time. But my sleep is interrupted—I wake up numerous times during the night and sometimes have trouble going back to sleep.
I feel like something bad is going to happen. I don’t know what, but it will be bad, if I go by how I feel.
Sometimes I lie in bed at night and say over and over to myself, I’m afraid. Sometimes I whisper it aloud if Larry hasn’t come to bed yet.
I’m afraid and I don’t know why.
That is my generalized anxiety disorder. Most of the time, I don’t have all of these symptoms, but I’m a worrier and I’m tense most of the time, finding it hard to relax.

According to “Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control,” a publication on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health, generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to worry about things without a clear reason to:

“All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with GAD are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.”

The publication goes on to list the symptoms of GAD:
*Worrying very much about everyday things
*Trouble controlling constant worries
*Knowing they worry much more than they should
*Not being able to relax
*Hard time concentrating
*Easily startled
*Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
*Feeling tired all the time
*Headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, unexplained pains
*Difficulty swallowing
*Trembling or twitching
*Irritability, sweating a lot, feeling light-headed or out of breath
*Having to go to the bathroom a lot

The booklet goes on to say that treatment for GAD is usually psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavior therapy, medication or both.

I take medication and I’m in therapy, both of which help my GAD. I’m finding that meditation, being mindful as often as possible and deep breathing also help. So does reading or doing some other enjoyable activity.
And I’m working on changing the way I think about things. For example, I try to catch myself when I’m in catastrophe mode and remind myself that I’m making the situation bigger than it is.
Still, I have those times of anxiety. Sometimes I don’t know what causes them. I go through all the things that could be worrying me—personal, work—but sometimes I can’t figure it out.

Do you ever have episodes of generalized anxiety? What are they like? How do you cope?


  1. Hi Tina, hmm, generalized anxiety..yes, I have it a lot. As you said, I'm sure that something bad is going to happen, I get "butterflies" in my stomach nearly all day and night, especially first thing when I wake up. I jiggle my legs up and down nervously, pace up and down, find it difficult to catch my breath, writhe my hands, that's when my OCD kicks in, I sometimes have a full blown panic attack. Unfortunately no amount of "talk therapy, cognitive whatever", has not helped me. I rely totally on medication. Susan :)

    1. Susan, I know what you mean about the "butterflies" in you stomach--they flutter around in me a lot too! And I nervously move my legs and hands, too. There are a lot of similarities. I hope the medication is helping you.

  2. Tina, hi!
    You absolutely described me! Every bit of me when I am thrown into a full frenzied anxiety/panic attack!

    However, sicnce I had ECT treatments through late Dec / early Jan (this year) the panic attacks have ceased! Anxiety still comes and goes at a much milder pace (than what you've described here -and I lived with this for 4 years prior to the ECT).

    In the present time I do have a light dose of medication that I can take whenever the anxiety starts to take over my body, and I use it PRN.

    But, yes! yes! yes! You described me to the ' T ' when I used to have panic attacks.

    I pray that these levels of anxiety will stop for you, for I know that it is normal and vital to our well being to experience some anxiety to a certain degree ... but, not this crippling kind.

    God Bless :)

    1. Deanna, I'm glad you no longer have the panic attacks--they are no fun, are they? I'm sorry others suffer from anxiety, but I am glad to know there are others who know how I feel.

  3. I force myself outside to take a walk to cope, it is really the only way for me to wind down..but there are times I can't do it (in the middle of the night) and that is really hard. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it feels like my heart is shaking, the anxiety is so bad and I just close my eyes and take really deep breaths till I feel like I can get up out of bed. I hate those mornings. I have alot of the same symptoms that you do and most of the time it comes on without anything I can think of to provoke it. Your post a few weeks back really helped me be aware of how over stimulation of my senses causes me stress so I am trying to limit that. For example when the tv is on and people start talking louder above it I get really tense..so I ask if it is ok to turn off the tv and just doing that calms me down. It's like I can't concentrate with all the stimuli. My jaw is always sore, I think I must always hold my tension in that area.

    1. Krystal Lynn, I wake up with anxiety sometimes, too, and it puzzles me. I wonder if it comes from something I've dreamed or if it's related to what kind of day I have ahead of me. Taking a walk is an excellent way to cope. My jaw gets sore, too, from holding it so tightly.

  4. I'm happy to say that I don't have nearly as many of these symptoms as I used to. I've also been fortunate that I never lost sleep -- I have always slept deeply and well, even when the GAD was at its worst.

    Still, I have a tough time now and then. For me, anxiety and excitement feel the same, and that means that when good things are happening, I struggle as much or more than when things aren't going as well. As you know, we've been in the midst of a remodel, including major landscaping work. Yesterday the plants arrived! I am beyond thrilled -- and freaking out at the same time.

    The good news is, I know how to take care of myself. I had a massage yesterday, I'll do my yoga, I'll spend quiet time writing. The other day I let myself have a big ol' ugly cry, and boy, did I feel better! We are going through big changes, and so I am treating myself with great gentleness and compassion as I adjust.

    1. Nadine, I know what you mean about anxiety and excitement feeling the same--I'm like that, too, and I never knew how to verbalize how I felt.

      A good cry does me good too. Have fun with your plants! :-)

  5. I have anxiety related to my inlaws. They have done a lot of not so nice things over the years and now when they come visit or call or anything I get anxiety. I try to do a lot of yoga before a visit.

    1. Lisa, I can relate to anxieties related to seeing/talking with some relatives. Yoga is a healthy way to prepare for the visits!

  6. Oh yes... I know those feelings. I also have GAD but sometimes it's hard for me to tell the difference between a GAD episode and an OCD episode because I often become obsessed about my worries.

    1. Elizabeth, I think when I get really anxious from GAD, it can lead to manifestations of OCD. The OCD anxiety is not easier than the GAD, just different. The OCD feels more immediate, and I can usually point to the source of the intense anxiety. With the GAD, it's more free floating.

  7. Sometimes, I have this bad feeling, in words, "something is wrong, and I don't know what." I can't usually tell the difference between OCD and GAD, either, and I'm not sure if my psychiatrist "labeled" me with GAD. But some of the vague anxiety I attribute to that. I also have trouble clenching my teeth - it goes in spells. And have had nausea and diarrhea and stomach aches from anxiety (I think they are triggered by any kind of anxiety, all of it added up, when there is too much). This way, I have a harder time telling if I am sick with a bug or just anxiety sick (non-contagious). Coping? I don't know. Same as I do with OCD, I guess. I intentionally unclench my teeth, I choose to focus on something besides my current worry, sometimes I work on Cognitive stuff like analyzing my worry and going for a more reasonable thought.

  8. GAD has plagued me a lot longer than OCD has. Though I had OCD symptoms as young as the age of 3, GAD has been a major force in my life forever. In some ways, GAD seems even harder, because very often there are no actual triggers. It's just a general feeling of being afraid. Very afraid. Thankfully, my treatment for OCD helped my GAD as well. Just the other day, though, I had a terrible panic attack on the plane on the way back from the IOCDF conference. It was late, I was very tired, there was a lot of turbulence, and there was a baby crying loudly. I was literally shaking. Thankfully, my husband understood this, and he just held me and tried to distract me by talking about something else, and sharing a snack with me. It really helped and the attack went away. Thankfully, I don't get too many panic attacks any more, but they sure stink!

  9. I know ALL those symptoms so well :(

  10. We all facing the mental health problems from time to time, and me too. Point is to be positive and to stay positive. Working on our self is something very important also.


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