Psychologists Sydney / Anxiety / General Anxiety & Worry

Have you ever thought of yourself as a worrier? Are you someone who feels a bit queasy in your tummy a lot of the time, or are you just unable to relax. Do you find it hard to get out of bed with worry about the day. Or perhaps you have slept poorly are often feel tired and are have trouble concentrating.

These and other symptoms when taken together may indicate that you are experiencing what is called a Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). While people often find it hard to make the distinction, Generalised Anxiety Disorder is more than the ordinary anxiety that most people feel in their day to day. It is often characterised by long standing and overstated worry and tension. And often it seems as if nothing has provoked these feelings.

Having Generalised Anxiety usually means that you see a disaster just around the corner, that you worry more than others about your work, your relationships or your wellbeing and sometimes it can be hard to put your finger on it.

Generalised anxiety, sleeplessness & depression

If you have GAD what you have probably noticed is that you just can’t stop worrying. After a moment of relaxation, another concern springs up. This is what plays in to occasional problems with sleep, which can lead to insomnia. After some months or even years of such worry you may begin to feel tired and unmotivated; for many people this can mean they end up suffering from depression too. A sense that things are hopeless.

Milder and more severe cases of anxiety

Many people with Generalised Anxiety find that they are able to continue most of their usual daily tasks and usually are able to maintain their social commitments. That doesn’t mean it is always enjoyable; but for people with a mild anxiety condition much of their life is still enjoyed. For others, who have more severe Generalised Anxiety, the amount of worry and tension in them makes it hard to either participate in activities and relationships or to enjoy them.

The onset of gad or generalised anxiety disorder

For most people, GAD begins in childhood or adolescence, but it can also start in adult life. It often ‘runs in the family’ and women seem to be slightly more susceptible than men. A diagnosis may be made if the symptoms, namely excessive worry about everyday problems, are present for more than six months. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

The symptoms characteristic of generalised anxiety disorder:

The following are the diagnostic criteria for GAD.

• You experience excessive or exaggerated anxiety and worry, on most days for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
• You find it difficult to control the worry.
• Your anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for most days for the past 6 months; children don’t need to meet as many criteria).
• restlessness or feeling on edge
• finding yourself easily fatigued
• you have difficulty concentrating or your mind goes blank
• you are irritabile
• you have muscle tension
• your sleep is disturbed (you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, or your sleep is restless)

Also, for a formal diagnosis it is required that the anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms you are experiencing are causing what we call clinically significant distress or impairment in your social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

There are some other criteria which are useful in distinguishing Generalised Anxiety from other conditions.  Some of these include for instance, that your anxiety or worry is not about having a Panic Attack (see Panic Disorder),  or being embarrassed in a public setting (see Social Phobia), being contaminated (see Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), gaining weight (as in Anorexia Nervosa), and the anxiety is not related to a recent traumatic event such as in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Acute Stress Disorder.

Finally, the symptoms themselves must not occur as a direct result of drug use or a medical condition and it must be present at times when you are otherwise free of other conditions such as a Mood Disorder or a Psychotic Disorder.

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American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition.
Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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