Before 2 months ago, I really didn’t know much about anxiety disorders. The only ones I really knew anything about were social anxiety and panic disorder, just because I knew people who had them, although I didn’t really know much about the disorders, because people didn’t really talk that much about them. I had never heard of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) before I was diagnosed with it a couple months ago.
Please note, if you see any of these things in yourself or a loved one, it may or may not indicate a mental illness. Keep in mind that these are my personal experience, not a list from a medical professional. Everyone experiences mental illness differently and everyone’s body will react differently. Especially the physical symptoms. Those could easily indicate other medical problems. If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness, please talk to someone. Don’t keep it locked up inside!
1. Always thinking worst case scenario
If my parents were late getting home from work or being out while I was at home, I would think they got in a car accident or something bad happened. I would visualize every possible scenario. Then they’d come home, and I’d be so relieved, and then I’d forget all about it, until the next time. I never told anyone.
If I got sick or injured, I would always worry that it was worse than I thought it was, but I would never tell any one.
2. Visualizing bad results from insignificant situations
But not just things like that. I would be small things. Running my finger along the edge of a piece of paper, I would see the paper cut happening and feel how much it hurt, even though I caught myself before the paper broken the skin.
Driving my car, and seeing someone get cut off, or someone cutting me off, I would instantly picture the cars colliding, or me swerving to get out of the way and crashing into a pole or whatever happened to be near by. I would picture the car getting completely crushed and me being trapped inside of it. My legs trapped under the steering wheel or the door being smashed into my side. Nothing has ever happened to me to have a reason to see these things in my head. I’m not afraid of them happening. At least not so much that I can’t go out driving. I enjoy driving. Sometimes I think about as a scary thing. Sometimes, its more of a what if this happened and I died, and I wouldn’t have to deal with life any more.
Standing on a balcony, more than a couple floors up, I could picture myself falling and hitting the ground below. This is why when I lived in the 7th floor of my apartment when I was in college, I didn’t spend a lot of time out on the balcony. Nothing would have to happen to make me imagine these things. I would just picture it.
3. Not wanting to go out and do every day things
People invite me out to do something. I will try to come up with any excuse to get out of it. Most of the time, I can’t come up with a reason I feel is good enough, so I’ll drag myself out of the house and the entire time, all I can think about is how I’m going to get out of the situation that I’m in. I try to think of an excuse to leave. Anything that can justify me going home and being alone.
4. Feeling left out, when it probably wasn’t true
Quite often, in high school and college, I would hear my friends talking about some thing that they did that I wasn’t invited to, and they make it sound like they had so much fun, and all I can think about is the fact that I wasn’t asked to join them. Even know, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go, had I been asked, I still get offended that I wasn’t.
Or I’d be doing something, working on my own, and I’d see friends or coworkers near by talking, having a private conversation. I wasn’t asked to join them. They didn’t even make an effort to include me. I don’t know what they’re talking about, but instantly, I think they’re talking about me. Which leads me to my next point.
5. Feeling like I was being laughed at or made fun of, all the time
When I see people, whether I know them or not, talking quietly or laughing, my first thought is always that they’re talking about or laughing at me. Even though, in all likelihood, they aren’t, I still think they are. I know that they probably aren’t, and that it has nothing to do with me, but I can’t help myself but to think that they’re making fun of me. This is the reason that I’ve always disliked teenagers, even when I was one. I see teenagers now, out in public, laughing as they walk by me, and I think they’re looking at me thinking, oh, she’s fat, and ugly, or whatever.
6. Constantly worrying about situations that will never turn out the way I think they will
If I know that I have make a phone call to book an appointment or discuss something important like banking or whatever, anything that isn’t calling a friend or family just to talk, I can’t do it right away. I think about what will happen running through the conversation, and trying to plan out the entire thing in my head before it happens, but it never goes as expected.
With other situations that are a little more stressful, that would get regular people a little bit nervous, I stress about them right up until the moment they end. If it turns out good, then I can usually move on easily enough, but if it doesn’t, then I continue to stress about it long after its over. The more stressful the situation was, the longer I stress about it, running through the situation in my head, over and over.
7. Difficulty handling stress
Sometimes complete inability to handle stress.
It happens with small things and big things. When I was a kid, I would get stressed out about homework. When I got stuck on a question or project, I would try to get help from my parents, but for some reason, I wouldn’t accept it. I would freak out and lose control over everything. I would end up having a complete meltdown. I would be crying for no reason, over some stupid homework assignment. I knew it was dumb but I couldn’t stop it from happening.
That sort of thing still happens to me now. When I get stressed out about work or other situations, I tend to shut down. I get so overwhelmed that I can’t function. I can’t do anything. I can’t get anything done.
8. Angry or agitated for no logical reason
9. Generally unhappy about life
This one kind of speaks for itself. Not that my life is crappy or anything, I’ve just never been happy with it. I’ll be happy in situations, happy about things that happen, but just in general, I’m not happy. I don’t even remember the last time I was genuinely happy about my life. Whenever I think about the things I’ve accomplished or want to accomplish, I suddenly feel like I’ve accomplished nothing with my life. I’m 27, and the things that I dream about accomplishing, most people have already done by my age, and it makes me upset that I haven’t done those things by now. It doesn’t matter that I know that it shouldn’t matter, but it still bothers me.
10. Undiagnosable physical symptoms
This is a multi-part item. I could have easily split it into separate items, but felt it made more sense to group them together into one.
a. Severe stomach pain
b. Heart palpitations
c. Digestive issues
This is another thing I keep seeing listed, but I don’t know for sure if it is a direct result of my anxiety or not. I’ve had digestive problems my entire life.
11. Low self esteem and self confidence
I’ve always had low self esteem and self confidence. Now that I know I have GAD, I know that it is the cause. I’ve always wanted to believe that I don’t care about what other people think of me, but the truth is, I always worry about it. So much so that it makes me shut people out. I don’t tell people how I really feel, what’s going on in my head. I’m always worried that people thing I’m stupid, annoying, ugly, fat, every possible negative thing that anyone could possibly think about another person, I worry that everyone sees me that way, because I see myself that way. Most of the time, I don’t like myself, I don’t like anything about myself. I have the occasional day where I feel a little bit better about myself, but the majority of the time, I don’t feel good about myself or my life.