Generalized Anxiety Disorder
When the list of worries are too long to count, you can bet Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the diagnosis. Therapists think of it as the “roulette wheel” of anxiety--and it can be exhausting to the mind and the body. Many people with GAD actually have a healthy sense of humor about their tendency to overthink, despite how debilitating it can be, and it’s not hard to find good natured memes and GIF’s with worry as their main theme.
There are several theories on the causes of GAD including genetics, diet, a history of abuse, and exposure to stressful situations. However, even when the causes cannot be changed, such as the case with a family history of anxiety, there are still interventions that can help. At times, worrying about the “what ifs” can actually be a way to avoid confronting and solving real issues. Pausing and asking yourself the question, “Is there an actual problem that I’m avoiding by worrying about something I can’t control?” can sometimes be enough to interrupt a mind that’s “work-crastinating.” Another Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) technique is the “worry chair,” which involves postponing worries until a certain time and place (i.e. in the designated chair) and then worrying your little heart out. If you think about worry like snacking, it’s basically a “diet” of the mind.
GAD often goes hand-in-hand with other mood and anxiety disorders. A person may meet criteria for Panic Disorder, OCD, or Depression in addition to the background noise of chronic worry. Sometimes Bipolar Disorder is misdiagnosed as GAD because both disorders can both involve rapid thoughts that cause distress, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. It’s important to see an expert for a thorough and accurate diagnosis because although both disorders require some of the same treatments, (such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and CBT) the medications prescribed for GAD versus Bipolar Disorder can be very different.