How to Identify Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

What are Some Common Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders Version 5 describes Generalized Anxiety Disorder as excessive apprehensive expectation, occurring more days than not for at least six months about a NUMBER of events or activities. The person must find it difficult to control the worry. This worry must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. These Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition for example hyperthyroidism. The symptoms are also not caused by another emotional disorder. Lastly, the anxiety and worry are associated with three or more the following six symptoms with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past six months:

  1. Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge. This is the psychologically painful aspect of the illness.
  2. Being easily fatigued. This is caused by the combination of poor sleep, poor modulation of effort and an excessive amount of energy expended on the sustained FLIGHT or fight system.
  3. Difficulty concentrating or the mind going blank. Chronic anxiety dulls the higher processing of AVAILABLE information.
  4. Irritability. The chronically anxious states doesn’t allow for the development of excitement and positive expectation regarding change. All change is met with negative expectations and a dearth of energy to mount an appropriate response.
  5. Muscular tension. Chronic anxiety and poor sleep leads to poor modulation of muscular tone and muscular tension, fatigue, and soreness.
  6. Sleep problems for example difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep.

What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Much like depression, this disorder seems to be multifactorial. Certainly a childhood characterized an unpredictable anxious environment can cause anxiety of several types. It has been found to be about 30-40% genetic. It presents in about 5% of people with women being slightly more represented than men. It is often associated with depression and chemical dependency, and can be easily confused with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Anxiety can cause chronic poor concentration leaving the person with many traits found in those with ADHD. The opposite is also true in that having chronically poor concentration for no apparent reason can leave one chronically anxious. And, of course, a person may have both conditions.

What is the Course of the Illness?

People often recall being anxious since childhood although for some, it begins in their 20s. It tends to come and go over months to years. It can be very mild to extremely debilitating. The worse the presentation the more frequently it presents with other emotional problems such as depression or panic disorder.

Are their Specific Tests for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Medically there are no specific blood tests, genetic tests or brain scans that are diagnostic for this condition. Blood screening is imperative as other medical illness can present with chronic anxiety.

At times brain scanning may be indicated particularly if there is a history of brain trauma or suspicions of multiple sclerosis. Psychological screens and tests for other psychological issues and basic personality style may be helpful for initial screening. In a professional assessments this can also provide a baseline to plan strategies for improvement and follow results of a person’s efforts. The above can be reviewed before or during a thoughtful discussion with your clinician. This usually includes which a review of your personal, family and medical history as well as a review of all present symptoms, stressors, supports and overall function. Having a friend or family member available during this discussion can be very helpful as we may not be entirely aware of how we are doing. It also helps to have someone remember what has been said and to help in follow up. Lastly, this person can also help you assess if you are getting the level of help you need.

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