Continued exposure to a stressful situation tends to cause stress and anxiety. But these abate over time and normalcy returns. When the state of anxiety remains constant, regardless of the scale of the stressors and even in their absence, it’s considered to be generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). Typically, GAD is a sustained state of anxiety without a specific focus.
Signs of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can range from the physical (elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, and fatigue) to the cognitive (distraction and short attention span).
“Usually, the signs of GAD are ignored as indications of generic everyday stress. People tend to seek help only when they have developed associated conditions like high blood pressure or hypertension or when the signs have become significant enough to hinder daily activity,” says psychiatrist Kersi Chavda.
Signs that you have GAD
Here are a few tell-tale signs that can help you identify the disorder:
Frequent lows: You feel nervous and irritable frequently, in response to small triggers that would not spark those feelings before.
Tummy upsets: Spells of indigestion, gastric disturbances or diarrhoea have become more frequent.
Feeling burdened: You feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks.
Lack of focus: You are unable to concentrate and are unable to work at your usual pace and efficiency.
Avoiding people: Social situations and breaks from your routine cause you undue anxiety—to the extent of causing dryness of mouth, mild increases in heart rate, or tremors.
When to seek help?
Intermittent anxiety is normal, especially given the constant strain and engagement of our way of life today. But if you find that the symptoms listed for GAD persistent, largely uninterrupted, over long periods of time—you should consider consulting a professional.
“The question to ask yourself is, am I socially, occupationally or personally impaired by my feelings of anxiety and their manifestations,” says psychiatrist Parul Tank. “Is your ‘worry’ interfering with aspects of day-to-day life like work?”
Why is help for vital?
The first step in addressing GAD is recognising that this is a disorder, not a state of mind or a response to situations.
Things that relieve stress, like deep breathing and exercise, help with GAD, but therapy is vital because it will go beyond the surface to offer a structured exploration of the root of the problem. Think of it as the difference between re-tarring a road, and just filling up a pothole.
If ignored over a long period, there is a possibility of GAD leading into depression. GAD can also trigger associated physical situations such as high blood pressure, affecting other aspects of your health.