In today's world we have a lot to be worried about; job loss, bill payments, rising grocery costs, keeping our children safe, and keeping up with everything on our plates all while maintaining a smile in public. Some of us are chronic worriers and some not. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition of chronic worry. It occurs when our worries never seem to subside. An ongoing wave of anxious thoughts and behaviors invade our lives daily and we may struggle to let go of them. My counseling intern, Jill Oulman, Unlicensed Psychotherapist, who will be completing her counseling degree in the next few months, wrote a few thoughts on Generalized Anxiety. I thought that I would share them with you.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
By Jill Oulman
It can be easy to confuse Anxiety for Depression. Both affect one’s ability to concentrate, both affect mood, often both anxiety and depression affect sleep, and with both disorders one can appear agitated or restless. Because anxiety is a part of natural human existence, it can be something many individuals brush off as normal. When it begins to affect their daily lives, they assume it must be something more severe than anxiety. Many people assume they are depressed and seek help because they cannot deal with their feelings of hopelessness.
By properly assessing the condition as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the therapist can work to teach the client tools to reduce anxiety and feel in control again. Human beings are programmed with a fight-or-flight mechanism. In an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, that mechanism can be faulty and the body is not able to restore itself to a decreased state of adrenaline once that mechanism has been activated. Often the feelings of anxiety are automatic and not controlled by the client. Using relaxation techniques can be an effective management tool for the client to restore order to their day.
When patients can be taught techniques to help themselves, it brings the focus of control from external to internal. That may be the most important skill as often patients feel as though the source of their anxiety is beyond their control. This lack of control is what worries them the most. Enabling clients to have control over their treatment can be a first step in healing. The therapist can allow the client to focus on controlling their environment instead of the other way around.
Many individuals live with anxiety but it can be manageable. For those clients who begin to feel their life is unmanageable, due to their anxiety, there is hope. Medication, psychotherapy and learning skills to control what they can, can give these clients a sense of optimism and peace for the first time in years. An effective therapist will be empathetic, knowledgeable and skilled at offering solutions and hope.
I hope that you enjoyed Jill's thoughts on the topic. Symptoms can seem mild enough to dismiss but it is important to not ignore the symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms:
1. Anxiety or worry occurring more days than not for 6 months or more.
2. Difficulty controlling the worry.
3. Three or more of the following: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance.
4. The symptoms are not related to another Anxiety disorder or substance use and are significant enough to cause distress.
If you have these symptoms a few sessions of counseling may help, or journaling, running, prayer, talking with a friend, reducing caffeine intake or other self care methods. Anxiety can make it difficult to complete what we need to. It can be a sign of strength to reach out for help.
Many blessings to you,
Gretchen Flores, LCPC and Jill Oulman, Intern