Our mind-health Q&A columnist Athena Lazarides is a qualified psychologist and the author of You’ve Got This. She’s on a mission to help you clarify your problems so you can move onwards and upwards in life. You can see her work here.
I’m always anxious about all sorts of things – like crime, politics, weather, work and relationships. In fact, I worry about almost everything and I feel like this is holding me back. Sometimes, I like to imagine what my life would be like if I could just let this anxiety go. My body is suffering because of this tension, but I can’t help it. It’s been like this for a really long time. I can’t sleep – then I worry about the fact that I’m not sleeping and what that is doing to my body. I’m a wreck at work, and find that I can’t concentrate and my mind just blanks out (which then makes me worry about my bosses and what they think of me). I’m ready for it all to end.
It can be so exhausting chronically worrying about (almost all) things, and I know that you really want this to come to an end. It sounds like you may suffer from a psychological condition known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). You may be thinking that everyone has some form of anxiety (regarding work or finances, for example), so what is the difference between ‘everyday’ anxiety and GAD anxiety?
- Comes when a stressor is faced – for example, you feel anxiety when your boss is screaming at you
- You can control your anxiety.
- Everyday anxiety does not affect your overall ability to function.
- Everyday anxiety does not overwhelm you to the point of ‘blanking out’.
- Everyday anxiety does not leave you feeling chronically irritable.
- You may feel tense in the moment and then this dissipates as your anxiety goes away.
- You may have some worries but you don’t have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Excessive worry that can, generally, last for a minimum period of six months. For example, worrying about whether your boss will scream at you (even though they don’t have a reason for this), then worrying about something else and so it goes on.
- Your anxiety feels uncontrollable.
- GAD affects your ability to function at work, home or socially.
- You may ‘blank out’ or find it hard to concentrate.
- You may feel irritable a lot of the time.
- You experience tension in your body that lasts for a long time.
- Your sleep is disturbed.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is often diagnosed if other clinical factors are not present. For example, like being previously diagnosed with another mood disorder or if you have just recently suffered from a traumatic incident. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to speak to a psychologist, who can diagnose the situation accurately for you. There are many other factors not listed in this Q&A that directly influence a diagnosis being made (biological influencers, familial history, etc.). As such, I highly recommend that you seek further help. Generalised Anxiety Disorder can be treated and managed, so you don’t need to live with this burdening, overwhelming anxiety. Your life can absolutely turn around once you make your mental health a priority.
*Please note that this article is not a diagnosis, and you should seek further help through a face-to-face consult with a therapist to confirm other differential diagnostic criteria.
If you have a question for Athena, e-mail or tweet her. You can follow Athena here and see more of her work at Athenalaz.com. You can also receive her free audio course, designed to help you move from being stuck to being successful in five simple steps.
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