What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?


Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

There is a part of our brain that ‘looks around’. If you want to have a little fun or, or are really bored, try sitting in a busy coffee shop for twenty minutes with a friend and write down everything that you look at. You may find the differences in what you notice interesting. We all tend to notice different things when exposed to the same situation. One person may notice the children who come in. Another may take particular notice of couples who really seem to like each other. One person notices clothes, while another notices novel coffee mugs. If we then take the time to look into it, we can figure out why the brain decided to notice the things that it did. Maybe the person who noticed the couples is lonely and looking for someone. The person who noticed the children may want or have children of their own. The tendency is there, it is constant and others notice what we notice.

The person with GAD worries about all of it. No matter where the mind looks the same part of the brain that is doing the looking is also doing the worrying. It’s not the same as the fear one might have with panic disorder. There is a different flavor to it...it’s more of a constant low level worry. “Look at that coffee mug; I hope it doesn’t spill that guy’s coffee all over the place. And that couple over there looks happy but you never know how that is really going to turn out. Look at how that child is dressed, is that really warm enough? Now my coffee’s cold, I hope the guy behind the counter doesn’t get mad at me if I ask him to warm it up for me!” And the beat goes on, forever. Wherever the mind goes, the worry goes. And, so goes the conversation with the friend who is with them.

Why is Generalized Anxiety Disorder So Serious?

This condition usually begins in the late teens or twenties. It can come and go but when it comes, it is constant. It can make the person miserable and adds resistance to any thoughts of change. The person’s energy levels dip as the anxiety provides a continuous drain on energy reserves. The person’s conversations have a relentless negative focus that others find difficult to listen to or to take seriously. This frequently drives a person into chronic sadness and eventually the person may feel despair and become depressed. Discernment at home, work, or with friends is distorted. The person frequently finds themselves alone in all three areas of their life. They may self-medicate with alcohol or marijuana to deal with the discomfort. It feels bad but the person often still sees the concerns as real.

Anxiety Disorders and Neurobiology
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