The following is a list of symptom criteria from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition 2013 (DSM-5) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry often occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive.
The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry may easily shift from one topic to another.
The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms:
- Edginess or restlessness
- Tiring easily; more fatigue than usual
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
- Increased muscle aches or soreness
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)
Some people also experience physical symptoms including sweating, nausea and stomach or digestive problems. The anxiety and worry often make it hard to carry out day to day activities and responsibilities, and often cause problems at work, in relationships or in other important areas of their lives. If left untreated, people may also begin to experience something called Panic Disorder, in which a person feels like they are having a heart attack or dying and may seek medical treatment thinking they have a physical problem. In some situations, individuals may often overuse or abuse alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications, or other drugs to minimize the ongoing suffering and struggles they are experiencing on a daily basis.
Seeking the help of a mental health professional is important to assess for and help manage anxiety disorders. While anxiety can be helpful in normal amounts to motivate and accomplish goals, it can cause serious impairment, and at its worst, can cause people to feel depressed, alone, deficient, and potentially suicidal. I always advise people that suffering in silence is not the answer and that reaching out to The Illinois Lawyer’s Assistance Program (LAP) to help you access the appropriate treatment is critical to living a healthy and full life. LAP can help determine whether simple mindfulness techniques, including but not limited to meditation, breathing, and yoga may help minimize your symptoms or if other treatment is necessary.