There’s a reason why this anxiety disorder is characterized by the word generalized. In short, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) worry about everything in general.
With a start, Mike realized he’d almost missed getting off at his stop. He’d been going over in his mind everything he’d done the day before to find the discrepancy on the latest production report. His supervisor told him it wasn’t a big deal, but Mike still felt it was. was this some sort of performance test? Were the higher-ups waiting to see how he’d respond and what he’d do to fix it? Did they think he was responsible? Or was he making too much of it? Mike just didn’t know, and now knowing meant it was all he could think about.
Mike had taken this route for almost six years to and from work, and yet here he was, yanking the cord at the last possible second. The bus driver probably thought he was an idiot for zoning out on his stop. As he hurriedly got off the bus, trying not to make eye contact, Mike wished he hadn’t eaten such a big breakfast. His stomach was tied up in knots. What if he couldn’t fix the problem? How much time could he devote to finding the answer and not have other tasks lapse? Who was watching and how closely? It was a tough economy, and Mike was relieved to have his job, which meant he was terrified of losing it.
Suddenly, his heart began to race. His increased breathing had nothing to do with the slight incline he climbed toward the back entrance to work. What would he do if lost his job? By the time Mike had plastered on the semblance of a smile as he clocked in, he’d already imagined the domino effect of losing his job, house, esteem of his wife, respect of his kids, and the fragile reputation with his friends. With the thoughts of potential disaster swirling in his mind, he knew it would be difficult to concentrate at work today, but he’d have to find a way. The only avenue to avoid potential calamity was eternal vigilance. He had to be on his guard at all times. With a sigh, Mike twisted his neck from side to side, wishing he had been able to get more sleep last night. It was going to be a long day.
If this was the first and only time Mike had experienced this kind of episode, you could write it off to a temporary problem at work; it wouldn’t indicate GAD. However, if this scene is replayed day after day, just with different problems, anxieties, conflicts, and concerns, it is GAD.
GAD isn’t a single bad day or even a bad week; it’s an ongoing state of worry, concern, and heightened anxiety over everyday events for six months or more. It’s constant worry about what if, what could with no discernible solution, no end, and no peace.
This incessant state of pending catastrophe leaves a person awash in the toxicity of their own stress. It’s not healthy. With no off switch, the mind and body are kept at a heightened state of alert, which takes a physical and emotional toll. According to the National Institutes of Health, many people with GAD know they worry too much; they just cannot seem to control their thoughts. They worry about everyday things every day. This constant worrying leaves them easily startled. They have trouble falling or staying asleep and find it almost impossible to relax for any length of time. With so many things to worry about, they have a hard time concentrating.
Here are some of the other common symptoms of GAD:
- feeling tired for no reason
- muscle tension and aches
- having a hard time swallowing
- trembling or twitching
- being irritable
- feeling light-headed
- feeling out of breath
- having to go to the bathroom frequently
- hot flashes 
Often, I’m not the first professional someone suffering from GAD goes to for help. She or he (I put “she” because GAD affects twice as many women as men)  will first go to a physician for relief from one or more of the physical symptoms. Depending on the circumstances, it can take numerous visits to rule out purely physical reasons for the symptoms.
Generalized anxiety disorder is serious. It has long-term debilitating effects. It consumes time, energy, and relationships. It leeches joy, contentment, and peace from your life.
If you or a loved one is struggling with fear and anxiety, we invite you to seek out treatment at The Center • A Place of Hope. Treatment begins with a free personal phone call with one of our counselors. Ask yourself “What is fear doing to my life?” Then realize that help is available, and that a life free of this condition is within your reach.The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of fear, anxiety and depression, and uses a whole person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in mind, body and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process. National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication no. 07-4677, “When Worry Gets Out of Control; Generalized Anxiety Disorder: (2007): 2.  National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication no. 09-3879, “Anxiety Disorders” (2009): 13.