How Do You Feel When You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. The medical definition of anxiety provided in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.” Some young people will experience bouts of anxiety accompanied by severe and/ or prolonged symptoms, while others may experience mild, and/ or fleeting symptoms of anxiety. Adolescents who experience persistent and debilitating anxiety may have an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a mental illness. GAD is characterized by “chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.” It is impossible to effectively describe how every young person diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder feels, as each adolescent is unique. Generalized anxiety disorder can manifest as psychological symptoms, behavioral symptoms, and physical symptoms. Common examples of GAD symptoms may include any combination of the following:
- Psychological symptoms:
- A pervasive feeling of apprehension or dread
- Intrusive thoughts
- Feeling edgy, restless, or jumpy
- An inability to tolerate uncertainty
- Behavioral symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
- Ritualistic behaviors (e.g., repeatedly washing hands)
- Inability to relax
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding potentially anxiety-ridden situations
- Physical symptoms:
- Muscle tightness
- Body aches
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Cold or sweaty hands
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic headaches
Every young person is different, and the symptoms associated with GAD can vary in severity and duration and will be distinct to each teen. To be clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, an adolescent must experience ongoing, debilitating symptoms for more than six months. Teens with GAD will excessively worry over everyday life events. The anxiety is typically derived from usual life circumstances, which quickly develop into pervasively worrisome and unmanageable thoughts.
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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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