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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a common mental health disorder that is more complex than simply overthinking situations. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, includes symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty focusing, irritability, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and/or muscle tension that has persisted for at least 6 months. Unlike a specific phobia, Anxiety can be generalized to a vast array of events, activities, and experiences and creates an interference or significant distress in one’s life. Common topics that can trigger anxiety include, job responsibilities, health, family, finances, opinions of others and life stage adjustments, like going to college or having children.


It’s estimated that 3.1% of the population, or 6.8 million adults, suffer from anxiety.

Due to recent covid events, we have seen an uptick in this number. It’s also not uncommon for Anxiety to be diagnosed with other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, OCD and PTSD. For example, someone may feel stuck in their anxiety and inability to enjoy typical activities like they once did without anxiety ruining the fun. This can lead to depression and isolation from social activities as a way to avoid a heightened anxiety response.



When anxiety is prolonged and is not adequately addressed, anxiety begins to manifest in various ways, trying to alert us that something is not right. Below are some various ways that anxiety manifests:


Anxiety and Your Senses

Blurry vision Sensitive to bright light Sounds may seem too loud

Sensitive to touch Tingling numbness Sensitive to smells



Anxiety and Your Heart

Heart skipping beats Tightness in chest Heart is racing

Feel heart in your throat Short of breath Fear of Heart Attack



Anxiety and Your Body

Can create gut health issues Shallow chest breathing Insomnia

Stored tension Tingling in hands/feet Eye twitches

Random pains in different parts of the body



Anxiety and Digestion

Upset stomach IBS Change in appetite

Nauseous Weight loss/gain Abnormal bowl movements


Treatment

As you can see, anxiety can be complex and is not limited to overthinking difficult situations. For this reason, people may try to beat anxiety by trying to control the situation (perfectionist) or engaging in avoidance behaviors, such as drinking or overeating, so they don’t have to address the pain they are feeling.


Rather than spending time in a behavior that is not truly relieving, try talking to a counselor you feel comfortable with who is trained in evidenced based modalities that can offer you healing.


Your counselor will typically start with an assessment to get a better understanding of your background and symptoms in order to properly identity the route of the cause. From there, helpful modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Neurofeedback and Somatic Experiencing can all be great modalities in decreasing the intensity of your anxiety. The goal is to help you be in the driver’s seat of the car. I’d love to speak with you more if this information resonated with you, if you would like more information on the therapeutic modalities listed, and are ready to be in the driver’s seat of the car.


- Chelsea McDonald, MA, LPC




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