Generalized Anxiety Disorder: An Owner’s Manual For The Uninitiated

An excellent article I just came across via Facebook: Generalized Anxiety Disorder: An Owner’s Manual For The Uninitiated

I definitely could have used this 11 months ago! I struggled with similar issues, which showed clearly that I didn’t understand what anxiety was when my doctor first told me I had it.

Here are some quotes from the article that really resonated with me.

The word ‘worry’ was used again and again. At the time, worry wasn’t what I did or how I identified. Thinking and overthinking, yes. Worry, no.

Once I got to learning a little more about it, I realized that I did worry a lot, I just hadn’t associated it as actually being worry.

Books and doctors tell you that GAD means you worry about worry, but if you don’t even consider it worry, that doesn’t help.

If you’ve read some of my past posts, you may remember that I was diagnosed after hearing Wil Wheaton talking about his experiences. He said he had GAD and chronic depression, and I fully expected my doctor to tell me that it was depression. When Wil said that, I had no clue what GAD was and it didn’t make any connections in my mind. It was Wil’s description of his symptoms, which he didn’t associate them to one disorder or the other, that I connected with.

For me, GAD meant that I was overthinking nearly everything in my life, scrupulously trying to figure it all out.


Q: Can a person have GAD and not know it?
A: Absolutely. It’s common for people who have GAD to see many doctors before they get properly diagnosed. Gastroenterologist, chiropractor, neurologist, acupuncturist, and gynecologist offices are some of the common stops along the path to diagnosis.

This is so true! For me, it was spread out over a period of 15+ years.

I’ve always had stomach problems but around 2001-2002 they began to get a lot worse. I had a ton of tests done, the word cancer was even mentioned, but never did anyone say, hey, maybe it’s anxiety!

In college, I was having really bad heart palpitations and almost constant headaches. Had a sinus x-ray, an EKG, and a 24-hour Holter monitor. Doctor says, “it’s probably just stress,” and brushed it off as no big deal. All I could think was, hello! My heart is a pretty important part of my body, and it isn’t acting right, I think this is a little more important! And that was in late 2010, which my social worker found rather shocking (when we were talking about it a couple weeks ago) because the doctor was on a college campus and that is when a lot of people are diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, during college! Plus, it was 2010, and mental health awareness had already been growing by this point.

It was another 4 years (right to the month) before I finally got diagnosed.

I don’t see 5-10 ants. I see the inevitable 100-200 ants that I imagine will invade and eventually carry off our house. It’s very hard for me to deal with the here and now when I am catastrophizing. (That’s a cognitive distortion. Learning to recognize cognitive distortions is one important element of cognitive behavioral therapy, the best method for treating GAD.)

Story of my life!

Ultimately, though, the difference between regular anxiety, stress, and GAD comes down to degree. Most people aren’t fainting or getting up in the middle of the night. […] And most aren’t negatively predicting the outcomes of regular social interactions in a way that adds extra stress to daily life.

Before being diagnosed with GAD, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I felt even remotely rested and refreshed after a night’s sleep. It was take me anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours to fall asleep, and next to impossible to get myself out of bed in the morning. The only thing that did was the risk of my dog peeing on the floor and the thought of being late for work without a legitimate excuse. In my mind, not sleeping, wasn’t good enough.

I tend to project into the future as I experience almost everything. And I’m often planning how to deal with some negative turn of events that might happen in the future, but most likely never will.

Often? More like every single waking moment of every single day with every single situation and scenario that occurred in my life!

I don’t generally feel like I’ve very good at expressing myself, my thoughts and feelings. This is why I find it easier to quote other’s words that I connect with. I hope this helps others understand myself and others with GAD a little better.

Be sure to read the whole article too. It is excellent! Generalized Anxiety Disorder: An Owner’s Manual For The Uninitiated


Leave a Reply