Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder, with characteristic symptoms:
- Excessive worries and nervousness
In GAD, there is excessive general worries and nervousness about everyday events or situations.
With the worries and anxiety, you have apprehension about the future, and may expect things to not go smoothly. Y
ou may have worries about your job, your finances, your school work, your relationships, your family, your health, or your children, just to name a few.
In addition, there are physical symptoms of GAD, which result from the activation of the fight-or-flight response:
- Muscle tension
The muscles tense to prepare for battle or running. There is a diversion of resources from the non-essential body systems, like the digestive system, to the skeletal muscles, where the tension is needed to provide power and readiness to act quickly. However, although this muscle tension is adaptive when you are facing a real danger, this is maladaptive when you are chronically anxious and constantly setting off the fight-or-flight response, as in the case of GAD.
- Restlessness, being juiced-up, or on edge
The increased arousal from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of adrenaline from the fight-or-flight response sets up your body to be constantly on guard for danger.
The increase in arousal from the fight-or-flight response results in disrupted sleep patterns.
The fatigue is from all the increased expenditure of energy involved in the fight-or-flight response. With chronic anxiety as seen in GAD, you are constantly aroused and you wear yourself out.
The distress from GAD is overwhelming and you manifest this as being mad and easily angered.
- Poor concentration (mind going blank)
Although over the short term, your focus actually improves when the fight-or-flight response is first activated, this soon turns to poor concentration or your mind going blank, as the fight-or-flight response was not meant to be a chronic reaction. However, in anxiety disorders and GAD, this stress response becomes chronic and is not helpful.
In addition to the above symptoms, the person with GAD has marked functional problems at work/school, and with relationships. Finally, the person with GAD has difficulty controlling the anxiety, and it causes much distress.