Greetings and Salutations everyone,
This will be the start to a series, from now on abbreviated as “SEvsR: ___”, which stands for “Society’s Expectations vs. Reality: *insert the name of the disorder being discussed*”. All disorders discussed will be disorders I personally have so the “reality” is all MY own subjective experience. I don’t claim to speak for anyone else except perhaps those closest to me whom I will interview and cite as appropriate.
For this beginning post, I will be discussing Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. Throughout the discussion, I will include some good resources for understanding anxiety and how those who have it, experience it. I will also be breaking down the DSM-5 criteria as written in my handy-dandy Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.
Before I start listing the criteria, here is a simple video from the lovely Kati Morton which explains the different anxiety disorders.
Now for the DSM-5 criteria:
A. Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occuring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
B. The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
C. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past 6 months):
Note: only one item is required in children
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
D. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
E. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g. a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g. hyperthyroidism).
F. The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. anxiety or worry about having panic attacks in panic disorder, negative evaluation in social anxiety disorder [social phobia], contamination or other obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation from attachment figures in separation anxiety disorder, reminders of traumatic events in posttraumatic stress disorder, gaining weight in anorexia nervosa, physical complaints in somatic symptom disorder, perceived appearance flaws in body dysmorphic disorder, having a serious illness in illness anxiety disorder, or the content of delusional beliefs in schizophrenia or delusional disorder).
Now that’s done. I’ll explain each symptom as I experience it because in all honesty, I experience every single one of those symptoms on a routine basis.
I, unfortunately, could not find an example of the meme this series was inspired by using Generalized Anxiety. However, I can tell you that people who do not have anxiety tend to picture those with it as having stage fright or being the cute socially-awkward teenager who talks too fast and makes the confident popular kids go “AWWWWW”.
Having daily anxiety is a constant battle to not have a freak-out in the middle of a crowded mall or publicly humiliate yourself when talking to ANYONE at a party.
Criteria as it is for me:
A. 6 months rule: I have had anxiety just about as long as I can remember. I clearly remember having a full-out anxiety meltdown on the first day of first grade in elementary/primary school. (Note: I also have Autism: Level one/Asperger’s Syndrome – I will explain how this complicates the issue in a later post on THAT topic)
B. Difficulty controlling the worry:
TLDR: I CANNOT CONTROL IT.
- Restlessness: I pace and feel on edge ALL the time
- Fatigued: Unless actively doing something, I usually feel like I could nap.
- Blank mind: OH YAS. I space a lot. However, this is different than sensory overload from the Autism. I will explain that in another post later.
- Irritability: When I get anxious, I snap at everyone. Biggest bitch you’ve ever seen. Then I apologize constantly. Repeat.
- Muscle tension: Back, neck and shoulder pain is the worse. Combine that with the Functional Neurological Disorder/Conversion Disorder that I will explain in yet another post later…I have knots in my shoulders always.
- Sleep: Without my antidepressant medication which is also a sedative, I can pull all-nighters fairly easily then crash in the morning and sleep all day.
D. Clinical distress: I think I’ve beaten this horse to a pulp by now.
E/F. Drugs/medication/another disorder: I do not take any abused drugs, I do not even drink alcohol anymore because of my prescribed medications (though alcohol actually alleviates my anxiety). I have been diagnosed by several psychiatrists as having GAD so its not another disorder, though I can tell you it is not Panic Disorder as I do not worry about having attacks. I get them but I do not worry about future ones, also my worry never goes away.
Now to finish this up, I will leave you with a nice TED Talk about how anxiety is experienced by this woman.