Generalised Anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) involves excessive anxiety and worry regarding a number of events or activities. This type of anxiety is the result of recurrent worrying that reflects how a person thinks. People who experience generalised anxiety tend to worry significantly more than others about bad or negative outcomes in any particular situation. This can include a tendency to overestimate the likelihood of a negative outcome (which the person may or may not be aware they’re doing).
We can all go through challenges that create anxiety and by itself this is not a bad thing. If you’ve sat for an exam or been to a job interview chances are you experienced some anxiety and apprehension about how well things will go. This anxiety is to be expected, is relatively short lived and therefore isn’t a problem. Anxiety becomes a problem however when it’s experienced on a daily or even hourly basis and rarely seems to stop. Generalised anxiety is a psychological condition that involves worry and anxiety more days than not for a period of six months or more.
Worries can be focussed on “what if” questions (e.g., What if I miss my bus? What if I fail my exam? What if I can’t do that job perfectly?). Worries associated with generalised anxiety are also based on an assumption that a bad or negative outcome is probably likely and one should always be prepared with a backup plan ‘just in case’.
Generalised anxiety is an emotion very similar to fear and can be experienced as an apprehensive expectation that something is about to go terribly wrong. Sometimes, people with generalised anxiety are insightfully aware that they worry too much about too many things. They may also have been told by family and friends that they seem to worry too much. This worry can be experienced as difficult to control, no matter how much a person tries to reassure him or herself things will be ok, it feels impossible to stop focussing on what could go wrong.
Generalised anxiety also includes physical symptoms associated with excessive worry. These symptoms are listed below, if three or more of the following symptoms are present then a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder would be considered.
- Restlessness or feeling ‘keyed up’ or ‘on edge’.
- Being easily fatigued.
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
- Muscle tension.
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restlessness and unsatisfying sleep).
As noted previously some anxiety in life is normal and healthy. Generalised Anxiety Disorder however may be diagnosed if a person’s anxiety results in excessive distress or impairment in a person’s ability to work and maintain social relationships or engage in social activities.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed only if it’s clear that legal or illegal drug use is not causing the excessive fear and other symptoms of anxiety.
Disclaimer: The information covered on this website is for educational purposes only. Other anxiety disorders including Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Social Phobia (Social Anxiety) can share symptoms in common with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, so it’s important to speak with your GP or a psychologist about your concerns to clarify what you’re experiencing and to receive appropriate treatment. A diagnosis of any psychiatric or medical condition must only be made by a medical or mental health specialist. Diagnosing a psychiatric concern is a complex process that involves formal training, do not ‘diagnose’ yourself.
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