While anxiety is a big overarching category for an array of mental health conditions, this post will address the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. To provide a frame of reference, GAD can manifest as:
- Frequent, persistent worry
- Inability to let go of worry
- Interpreting everyday situations as threatening or immediately jumping to worst case scenarios
- Feeling constantly on edge, restless, or tense
- Inability to concentrate
- Finding that your mind will go blank in high-pressure situations
- Insomnia or nausea
- In younger people, perfectionism, excessive time spent on school-related tasks, and seeking approval from peers and mentors to an extreme degree can also be an indicator of anxiety
Anxiety is sometimes misunderstood as stress. Plus, admitting to those around you that you are feeling “stressed” might feel easier–stress is far less stigmatized. Stress and anxiety do overlap as well, since stress can trigger similar physical symptoms. But the key differentiator between stress and anxiety is that stress is often caused by an external factor (like a short term work deadline or a long term personal relationship) while anxiety is triggered by an internal fear or worry.
Anxiety can be misunderstood in a variety of ways:
- Anxiety is frequently stigmatized as a feeling of weakness or lack of control over one’s emotions. Yet, taking concrete steps to confront your anxiety and discuss your experience takes a great deal of honesty, resolve, and emotional self-directedness.
- As a culture that tends to value individualism and being self-motivated, we are prone to dismissing those who experience anxiety as simply “needing to relax,” or “take a deep breath.” This type of dismissal minimizes someone’s experience, causes embarrassment, or makes their attempt at managing the anxiety more difficult. Yes, there are breathing techniques that help reduce anxiety, but simply “taking a deep breath” or “chilling out” is often not enough to help reduce symptoms.
- Anxiety is not always obvious. It might crop up in the form of spiraling through worst case scenarios, or cause you to feel internally on edge, etc. But just because your symptoms aren’t directly visible to others doesn’t mean your experience should be dismissed. There are anxiety-based disorders that may be more physically obvious, like a panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or phobias, but even these manifest differently and with different triggers depending on each person. You know your experience best, and there are professionals available to accompany you on your personal journey
Just because you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder does not mean that you do not experience anxiety. And, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, this does not mean your life is defined by this diagnosis. Having the tools to manage anxiety can help your quality of life, and CCG can help you develop the right strategies for your individual needs.
Markway, Barbara. “5 Things People Misunderstand about Anxiety | Psychology Today.” Www.psychologytoday.com, 30 Nov. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shyness-is-nice/201711/5-things-people-misunderstand-about-anxiety. Accessed 18 July 2022.
Mayo Clinic. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20360803.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Anxiety Disorders.” Nih.gov, National Institute of Mental Health, 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders.
NHS. “Get Help with Stress.” Nhs.uk, NHS, 2 Feb. 2021, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/.