"I don't have panic attacks and I don't have flashbacks, so what is this tension in my body? Why do I have this underlying hum of nervousness? I just don't understand".
This is something I hear so frequently. The confusion of those who struggle with what is often called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most of the time, anxiety disorders are accompanied by trauma, traumatic events or some obvious expression. For example, having panic attacks due to a panic disorder is easy to relate to the diagnosis. Flashbacks are related to trauma and PTSD. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is different though, because it is a subtle yet consistent feeling of anxiety or nervousness, but has no dramatic expression.
Now you must be wondering "do I have this thing GAD?" Ask yourself these questions for clarity.
11 Self- Test Questions:
Please note, this is not a clinical assessment, rather a self help tool. If you'd like a thorough assessment, please reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional.
1. DO I WORRY EXCESSIVELY?
Excessive worry refers to worrying on most of the days of the week. Meaning, you're more worried than calm. Excessive also means that you've been feeling this way for six months or more. You don't need to be struggling with a "big worry", it can be a dreadful feeling or tension about small, everyday things.
2. IS MY "WHY" HARD TO EXPLAIN?
If you're having a hard time identifying exactly "why" you're feeling anxious, or if you have reasons that keep changing invariably, you may have GAD.
3. DO I HAVE TROUBLE SLEEPING?
Do you twist and turn and can't seem to get a deeply restful shut-eye? You may be staying up all night due to your thoughts, anxiety, or stressors that won't give you a break.
4.DO I HAVE NOTICEABLE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS?
Noticeable means that there are obvious changes that you and those close to you are aware of. This can can include things like heart palpitations, fatigue, sweating or nausea.
5. AM I AVOIDING SITUATIONS BECAUSE OF MY ANXIETY?
Are you changing your schedule and modifying the places, people or situations you naturally go to on a daily basis? If you are finding that you are avoiding people, environments and situations that didn't cause you stress previously, you may have GAD.
6. AM I EASILY PULLED TO NEGATIVE THINKING?
If you find that you have a tendency to expect the negative in everything, you may have an anxiety disorder. Do you find that you lean, almost naturally, to the negative when thinking about your personal life, professional goals, loved ones, health and finances? The root beneath this disposition may be related to an anxiety disorder.
7. DO I OFTEN EXPERIENCE HEADACHES OR MIGRAINES?
There are many causes for migraine headaches, however, stress, especially the stress caused by anxiety, is often related to painful headaches. How does this happen? When your muscles stay tense for a long period of time, they become painful, as someone expressed "It feels like a pressure around my head, almost like I have a rubber band around the top of my head".
8. DO I HAVE MUSCLE TENSION?
Do you find that your body is tensing up without even realizing? You might find yourself balling your fist, clenching your jaw, tensing your brow or upper back muscles. If you allow a loved one to massage you they may say "wow your back is tight and knotty!" if you carry your tension in your neck and back area. Here's the thing about massages, they do help, but if you don't work through the underlying cause of body tension, the "knots" will keep coming back. So get those massages but take care of your anxiety to achieve relief at core-level.
9. AM I STRUGGLING WITH FOCUSING?
Do you find that you forget what people have told you earlier in the day, that your focusing is slippery or that you're having a hard time staying focused with regular, simple tasks? Your worries may be clogging your mind and causing distraction. Also, anxiety can actually cause "mind fog" so even if you don't have a specific worry consuming you, the fog makes it difficult to be present.
10. DO I HAVE DIGESTIVE ISSUES?
Our minds and bodies are in sync with each other, so pay attention to tension you are experiencing. I always encourage getting yourself checked first by a medical doctor, but if you've been given the clear on gastro issues and are still in pain, it's very possible related to anxiety. If you are no stranger to tummy issues such as upset stomach, having a hard time digesting food, or experience diarrhea or constipation on a frequent basis, you may have GAD. Some of these symptoms are similar to symptoms of those with Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and it is often that people with IBS have some anxiety disorder as well.
11. DO I WORRY ABOUT WORRYING?
When you have been experiencing anxiety for long periods of time, your body can go into fear zone, worrying about when you'll be anxious next. This worry is a concern about your overall emotional health and wellness, and although having a concern about your wellbeing isn't a symptoms of GAD, if you have this worry on top of other symptoms, it'll definitely intensify the symptoms.
0-3 If you've taken this test and have scored 0-3, you may fall in the range of regular daily anxiety that is within regular range of stressors.
3-6 If you fall in the 3-6 range you may have moderate levels of anxiety and you'll want to track and see how much anxiety is impacting your life and what you can do to begin finding ways to offer stress relief so that your symptoms get better and not worse.
6-11 If you fall in 6-11 range you have high levels of anxiety and probably have GAD. I encourage you to reach out to your doctor or a local mental health professional for a more thorough assessment. You will gain by reaching out for help in relieving the tension and lessening the levels of anxiety in your life. By taking responsible steps to care for your health, you'll be reducing the risks of developing a more severe anxiety disorder and find ways to bring your current symptoms under control.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, then you should consider talking to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Timely treatment can go a long way in helping bring these symptoms under control and allowing you to lead a happy, healthy life.
Have anxiety but don't have a full blown anxiety disorder? Try these TIPS FOR PREVENTION
- Keep a journal. Self tests can be tricky since moods can change on a daily basis. I encourage you to take a spare notebook and track how you're doing over a two week period. Identify which things bring you joy and which things bring added stress. You'll want to be adding things that bring relief and ease. Tracking also helps your mental health professional support you in knowing your trigger points and your supports.
- Early goes a long way. Anxiety is like a snowball. The longer it rolls, the bigger it gets. Early treatment goes a long way in nipping the issue in the bud, providing relief and improvement and prevents chronic symptoms from developing.
- Simplify and Prioritize Notice what's bogging you down. Pay careful attention to your priorities and let go of other things that are sapping your energy, causing extra stress.
- Avoid substances. Cigarette, alcohol, excessive caffeine and drug use can make your anxiety worse. If you're addicted to any of the above, trying to cut down can make you anxious. Why? you may be using on of these to self-medicate your anxiety. Speak with a mental health professional about finding the best ways to help you let go of the behaviors while learning healthier, adaptive ones.
If you feel like you've been worrying too much, and it's been interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life, I encourage you to take one step towards reducing your anxiety. Try some of these self-help tips.
If you're living in Long Island, Nassau County or Five Towns and are ready to do the work to reduce your symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, reach out or call me today to schedule your free consultation. Let's help you begin experiencing relief.