What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Like?

What is generalized anxiety disorder like?

Anxiety is a normal emotional reaction in response to stressful situations. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “anxiety refers to the anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.” While experiencing bouts of anxiety is natural, young people that experience persistent and debilitating anxiety may have an anxiety disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) asserts: “Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.” Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health illness listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is characterized by “chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.” Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and has been said to affect nearly eight percent of teenagers in America. 

Signs and Symptoms

It is difficult to explain what generalized anxiety disorder is like across the board, as each young person’s experience will be distinct. There are, however, a variety of common signs and symptoms associated with GAD. The Mayo Clinic provides examples, some of which include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overwhelming worry and fear
  • Isolation 
  • Agitation
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dysphoria
  • Low self-esteem/ low self-worth
  • Tension
  • Anxiety 
  • Worry/ Fear

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can present in any combination with varying levels of severity. The diagnostic criteria are somewhat different for adults and children. An adult is diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder when at least three of the above symptoms persist for a minimum of six months. In younger people, however, only one symptom is needed for diagnosis, provided it has been exhibited somewhat regularly, spanning over a period of six months.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

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