What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? [Mental Health Monday]

Here we are, already into February for 2019. This year is going to fly by just like the past few previous years. If you’ve been staying up to date with me, you’ll know that I have added a new feature onto the blog for this year – Mental Health Monday. This is the second post in the series, the first talking about why I’m opening up about it.

In that post I talked about how I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). So many people believe “anxiety” is a loose term, but it’s actually an umbrella for multiple types of anxiety. For a long time, I thought anxiety was just one category as well. I mean, we all have a little anxiety inside of us – whether we’re about to take a big test in school or we need to stand up on stage and do a public speaking event.

In the end though, some of us get it worse than others.

Mental Health Monday: What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? | Mental Health | Anxiety | Anxiety Disorders | GAD | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Types of Anxiety Disorders

As I stated before, anxiety occurs in all of us in some form of another. Most of the time it’s passed over as just being nervous for a certain test but we all get the sensation once in a while. In that sense, anxiety can be used loosely, but there are anxiety disorders such as:

  • Social Anxiety – when a person has intense fear of social situations. This can be eating in public, being among a crowd of people, or making small talk with as little as one or two people. Social anxiety makes you feel like people are criticizing whatever you’re doing or saying. You might say something wrong or stupid and end up embarrassed going home at the end of the night lying wide awake thinking, “Why did I have to say that…?”
  • Panic Disorder – when a person has panic attacks that are intense and uncontrollable combined with physical symptoms.
  • Specific Phobias – we all have something we’re afraid of though, for some, it can be pretty intense and bring on anxiety attacks and throw your whole day off.
  • OCD & PTSD – while these aren’t considered anxiety disorders, anxiety may be present in both of these.

And finally, there’s…

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This anxiety disorder is when someone feels excessive worry and is anxious about many different things. We overthink and plan out every simple thing and plan ahead even more in case something goes right or something goes wrong. Most often than not, we assume something will go wrong and worry, worry, worry about it 24/7. We believe it will go wrong so much that we tend to end up making things go wrong. Because, in our heads, it already went wrong before it even started.

This has effected many aspects of my life throughout the years – school, work, relationships – you know, everything that’s important in life. However, before I was diagnosed, I thought I was just weird and simply overthinking things. I couldn’t understand how to get my mind to stop. Then, when I was diagnosed… I still didn’t get it.

It Took Me a Long Time to Understand GAD

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I’ve come to terms with GAD and truly figured out what it meant for me to have it. I’ve had GAD since I was 16 – about nine years now – and it wasn’t until last year, 2018, that I realized what goes on in my head.

I mean, truth be told, I may never fully understand it, but I know more now than I used to. Even after I was diagnosed with GAD, I thought it was just the “official” term for “anxiety.” You know, professionals sounding fancy. Apparently, I have more than that.

I’ve always been a worrier and never showed it too much when I was younger because, even though I was truly freaking out, deep down I knew there was nothing to be worried about. Then something flipped a switch inside my brain in high school and all of the sudden I had GAD. I’ll get into that story in the next Mental Health Monday post, but it’s interesting to me how I’ve gone my whole life like this and didn’t have a clue that there was something more going on in my mind.

What Do You Mean “Worry?”

I worry over stupid stuff. I mean, I guess it’s not necessarily “stupid,” but in hindsight it doesn’t seem like it matters.

Anything I do or say, I worry is “wrong.”

For example, if I text someone and they don’t reply for a while, I don’t immediately think they’re at work and can’t reply. I don’t think they’re hanging out with friends and just haven’t checked their phone. I don’t think they’re phone is on silent and they just didn’t notice the text ping through. I don’t even think they’re busy in any way, shape, or form.

My immediate thought is that I said something wrong, stupid, selfish, embarrassing, what have you. My immediate thought is that they’re not replying because they saw my text, gave it a weird face, and put their phone down because they don’t know how to answer me.

Or worse, they’re ignoring me because they suddenly hate me despite us hanging out the night before.

This is sometimes why it takes me a while to reply back. I’m afraid to say something stupid and I need to craft the perfect response – or sometimes I’m just having a really bad day and can’t talk to people. By me doing that, I’m doing the exact same thing I’m afraid you’ll do to me… see the vicious cycle?

It Makes Me Feel Self-Centered

Now, I know people get busy. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me. I know people have other friends and family than just me. So, when I get upset or worried that someone doesn’t reply, I immediately feel guilty for thinking like that in the first place. Or I’ll text them again and again after a little while. I’ll panic wondering if my text messages are even going through. When they do reply, I’ll apologize and feel upset for bothering them.

Which is another thing. If I text someone first, I feel like I’m bothering that person even though I know they don’t have to respond. If they don’t respond, then I assume they hate me. So, I rarely text people first. But if someone doesn’t text me first, I assume they hate me and don’t want to talk to me.

See the whole self-centered thing? I’m getting a headache just writing this.

Texting Isn’t The Only Example

Texting is just one way my mind goes in circles. I think that’s a good enough example for now though.

My original point of this post was to explain what exactly GAD is and how it effects my way of thinking. A lot of my real life friends know I have “anxiety” but don’t understand that I have GAD and when I tell them, they get confused and don’t know what it is. I’ve been diagnosed with this for nine years and, like I said, I just fully understood it myself just last year. So, it’s hard when no one else seems to have a clue what’s going on inside your head.

Not that I expect them all to understand. They can’t put themselves in my shoes and I wouldn’t want them to. But now, at this point in my life, I think it’s time I start sharing and explaining things more. Maybe it will help in the long run.

Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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10 thoughts on “What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? [Mental Health Monday]

  1. I would absolutely consider OCD an anxiety disorder. The core of OCD is having a thought that causes you intense distress (anxiety) and then obsessing over it, and compulsing to neutralize that thought.

    I really relate to how you respond after sending texts, and the guilt/feeling self centered. Anxiety isn’t fun, and can spin the most ridiculous tales that feel so real. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I’ve definitely noticed more OCD ticks in myself over the years, so I do agree with that.

      I’m glad you can relate, even though it’s not a fun thing to relate over, lol. Thank you for reading.

  2. I totally hear you on this. I can worry about worrying about worrying whether or not I worry too much about worrying. Mostly my anxiety shows itself in panic attacks though. I’ve had bad enough ones to trigger asthma attacks, and have me rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

  3. I’ve said before that I think my non-super-power is being able to justify almost anything and it just dawned on me that it may be the flip side of your anxiety. I’m the sort of person who, when cut off by an aggressive driver, starts to speculate what they might be late for. That they’re hurrying because they don’t have the money to pay the fee for a late-kid pick up, but work ran late…

    I think that your anxiety, that very imagination that spirals you into worst-case worries, is also what you use in writing fiction, to figure out what could happen to your character.

    But I’m very against the “oh, your mental health issue is WHY you’re creative” mindset. I wanted to let you know that taking away your anxiety shouldn’t hurt your creative skills. That worry, that ‘what-if’ skill CAN be used while still taking care of your own mental health.

    P.S. Gah. And now I’m worried that you hadn’t been worried about that before and now I’ve given you something new to worry about. I’m clearly not immune to second-guessing myself. I apologize if that’s the case.

    • Your not wrong. I get annoyed when people cut me off, but they’re strangers so I don’t typically care what they do or think or me or anything. We’re all telling our own stories and fighting our battles no matter how big or strong. So I do agree with you on that.

      And no, I’m not saying my mental health is the reason I’m creative. My mental health is part of who I am as is my creativity and I’ve been creating much longer than I knew my anxiety existed.

      And please don’t worry about making me anxious. If I over-thought every comment I received, I shouldn’t be on the Internet. 😉

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