The main feature of generalized anxiety disorder is a continuous and persistent state of concern for various events, which is excessive in intensity, duration or frequency compared to the real circumstances, which instead represent events feared by the subject. Anxiety is defined as “Generalized” because it is not limited to certain situations, but, on the contrary, concerns numerous events and situations. This state is not associated with specific circumstances, it is difficult to control for those who experience it and is present in the subject for most of the time for at least six months.
Excessive worries are accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms
Restlessness (i.e. restless legs syndrome / restlessness);
difficulty concentrating or memory lapses;
muscle tension, tense, sometimes aching muscles;
disturbed sleep (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, wakes up poorly rested).
Those who feel muscle tension may also experience muscle tremors, aches, or contractures. Many people with this disorder also have somatic symptoms such as dry mouth, sticky hands, sweating, chills, nausea, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing and a lump in the throat.
The concerns of Generalized Anxiety Disorder have specific characteristics
For example, they are numerous, they follow one another quickly (at the end of one there is immediately another), they are accompanied by emotions of alarm, of restlessness and anxiety, they concern catastrophic events futures with a low real probability of happening, reduce the ability to think clearly, are very difficult to control.
Studies have shown that people with this disorder can spend more than half the time they are awake worrying about events that don’t happen. Often the person, after the lack of “misfortune“, recognizes his concern as excessive and disproportionate.
Many worries relate to everyday events and situations
For example the person spends a lot of time worrying about possible misfortunes, failures or negative judgments, they can relate to family members, social relationships, work or study, illness, money and finances in general.
The most common issues among people with the disorder are problems that can arise in the future, perfectionism and fear of failure, fear of being judged negatively by others. To summarize, therefore, the concerns characteristic of Generalized Anxiety Disorder mostly concern events distant in time, very unlikely to actually happen, moreover the anxiety that one feels is not “useful” to implement behaviors that would actually reduce the danger that is feared.
Other important and typical aspects of this disorder consist on the one hand
In the fact that often the people who suffer from it are worried about having concerns, which are expressed in thoughts like “…. I will not be able to control this concern; … I will never stop worrying; …. I’ll be sick or crazy if I keep worrying like this.
Worries or anxiety about one’s own worries therefore give rise to a vicious circle that continues to aggravate the symptoms and daily life difficulties, inevitably affecting and influencing the state of mind and mood of the person affected by this disorder. .
On the other hand, other people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder believe that worries can somehow have a “protective” function with respect to what they fear, that is, they tend to believe that worrying serves to prevent what is feared, for example with phrases like “… if I worry about the worst, I’ll be better prepared to deal with it
…”, “… if I stop worrying and something bad happens, I will feel responsible …”, “… if I continue to worry, sooner or later I will know what it is better to do… ”,“… worries help me to keep my anxiety under control .. ”. Such beliefs are rarely confirmed and tested, so the person continues to worry. Starting from a worry and the relative anxiety, therefore, chains of negative thoughts called ruminations are activated, which maintain and increase the initial state.