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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

December 14, 2021

I Need Someone

Stop telling me not to worry!

Do you even understand how important this project is? It’s like fifty percent of my mark. Fifty percent! And it’s not good enough. And if it’s not good enough, I won’t do well. I’ll fail the whole class. Well, fine, maybe I won’t fail but my grade will suck and that’ll affect my average and then I won’t get into university. Or at least the university I want. No, I am not exaggerating. I am not being dramatic. I AM NOT! Stop saying that! It’s not ready. It’s not right. It’s not perfect. I can’t hand it in until everything is just right. I can’t fail this project, I just can’t.  

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD?

A bit of anxiety throughout our lives is normal, like when faced with an exam or some kind of fear—you know, that fight-flight-freeze response. Generalized anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is constant and excessive worry most days about today and tomorrow, things big or small. GAD tends to begin in childhood or adolescence. 

How do I know? 

  • Physical: Muscle tension and aches, nausea, sweating. 
  • Emotional: Irrational fears or what-if thoughts, emotions ranging from worry to anger to guilt, feelings of dread, always expecting disaster.
  • Behavioural: Can’t concentrate, irritable, restless, trouble sleeping, excessive behaviours like studying or procrastinating or over-thinking or worrying, avoiding situations or activities that may produce anxiety, indecision, perfectionism. 

GAD by the numbers: 

What would put me at risk for GAD?  

  • genetics or family history 
  • brain chemistry and activity issues
  • serious illness
  • stressful or traumatic situations
  • substance use

What’s the big deal? 

GAD can lead to: 

  • other mental health issues, like depression
  • substance abuse
  • withdrawal from friends and activities
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and helplessness
  • problematic coping strategies, like excessive TV-watching to distract oneself
  • other avoidant behaviours

What can I do right now? 

  • See your doctor if you or loved ones are concerned about you. For example, if you notice you’re having emotional or physical symptoms, or if you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Talk to a counsellor or therapist about treatments that may work for you.
  • Learn some everyday techniques for controlled breathing, muscle relaxation, or mindfulness.
  • Find reassuring statements that you know are true. For example, “I’m worried about X, but I’ll be okay.”
  • Prioritize your tasks to make them more manageable.

Related anxiety issues: Panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia. 

Musical notes: A 2015 study showed that active music therapy – using your voice, body or instrument to create music – along with medication can significantly reduce generalized anxiety disorder symptoms like sleep problems and memory and attention issues. That’s because the body movements needed for active music therapy help release psychological and physical tension, and reduce adrenaline and stress hormones like cortisol. 

Cultural strategy: An ocean drum is a double-sided frame drum, usually animal skin on one side and clear on the other. Metal beads inside roll as the person rocks or tilts the drum, creating sound reminiscent of the ocean. Although its history is murky—some say it originated in Nepal, others from Indigenous cultures—the ocean drum has become a technique for reducing anxiety and increasing relaxation. 

Watch a video on Symptoms and Strategies for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

For more information: 

Anxiety Canada

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Mayo Clinic

American Psychological Association

Anxiety Disorders: an Information Guide (CAMH)