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We all feel anxious sometimes. Anxiety and worry are completely normal reactions to both the everyday and extraordinary stresses we all occasionally experience, in children this is often called separation anxiety in children under 10. When the anxiety starts taking over your life to the point that it affects your daily functioning, and if your anxiety is disproportionate to the level of objective stress you are experiencing, you may be looking at an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can have a tremendous impact on a person's quality of life, to the point that carrying out normal daily tasks becomes nearly impossible and all aspects of your experience are impacted by a paralyzing tendency to worry.
If your anxiety is making your life hell, you are undoubtedly hoping for a solution, but may also find seeking help to be a very difficult first step. Often, learning more about anxiety can help you take action.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder And How Does It Differ From Related Conditions?
The symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, shortened to GAD, include restlessness and feeling "on edge", irritability, fatigue and difficulties with sleeping, trouble concentrating, muscle tension, and an inability to turn the worries "off". Worrying about worrying, playing out doom scenarios in your head, and a fear of making mistakes are also part of the symptoms of GAD.
These symptoms have to occur a majority of the time over at least a six month period in order to quality for a GAD diagnosis under the DSM-5, the latest incarnation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It must also impact the person's life significantly, and other factors that could explain the symptoms — such as substance abuse — first have to be taken into account. The symptoms being explainable by another mental disorder also rules out a diagnosis of GAD.
People who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder can suffer from related conditions while still meeting the diagnostic criteria for GAD as well. Other anxiety disorders that are related to, but distinct from, GAD, include:
- Panic Disorder: Characterized by panic attacks, episodes of extreme fear that appear out of the blue, worries about when the next panic attack will occur, and feeling completely out of control during panic attacks.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: More related to how the person relates to others, and characterized by feeling anxious about interacting with and being in the presence of others, and a fear of being judged by others.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Characterized by the patient's need for routines and obsessively checking things. This may well induce anxiety as well, but is a separate disorder.