What is generalized anxiety? Generalized anxiety is a little bit different than most other anxiety experiences. Typically, anxiety is linked to particular items such as a traumatic event, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, or even particular critters (I’m snake phobic). Generalized anxiety is anxiety about EVERYTHING! Hopefully the name it away, but generalized anxiety is the experience of constant, excessive, uncontrollable worry about pretty much everything in your life. These worries can range from worried about being on time to a meeting, saying the right thing on a first date, the health and safety of your loved ones, or even something as small as taking the right road to work. Now, we live in a society that tells us that worry is normal and that everyone has it….this is both true and untrue. Worry is a natural experience as is the subsequent anxiety we experience. However, for many individuals their level of worry is above and beyond the average level. When you can’t stop the worry, when your brain doesn’t let you sleep at night because it is consumed with worry thoughts, when you can’t concentrate, when you believe you will get fired because you made a small slip up during your presentation, when you call your partner 15 times in 4.5 minutes because you think they died on the way to the grocery store; this is the worry that is likely eating your life.
I’m noticing this level of worry come into my office more lately, which has me thinking about what various factors might increase someone’s worry from average to clinical levels. Increased demands at work might be the cause. Increased stress from our current political climate might play a role. Constant comparison between yourself and others might make you reflect on your life and believe things that ordinarily you might not. Generalized worry is constant and often feels very out of your control. It’s as if your mind is on a hamster wheel that is being run by the Energizer Bunny, it never stops. This type of worry can really take a toll on your body, mind, and life. You might notice yourself feeling more agitated throughout the day, irritable at your kids or partner, your shoulders and jaw may feel tense all the time, you might even feel like you’re going crazy.
Generalized worry is a really common experience, but it is one of those experiences that people often don’t talk about. Nearly 15 million people in the United States alone experience clinical levels of generalized worry and that is a low estimate! Generalized anxiety can start at any time in your life and can continue throughout your life. But it doesn’t always decrease your ability to live into your life. For some people who experience generalized anxiety, it’s actually motivating because if you’re anxious about getting tasks done you might actually finish them weeks in advance (I am one of these people). Orrrrrr you might notice yourself procrastinating assignments or tasks because the anxiety makes you believe that if you can’t do it perfect there’s no point to do it. General anxiety is chronic, but often untreated for many people. Worry is totally normal for many of us, but there comes a point when the worry doesn’t stop, where you can’t focus, where you feel exhausted, where you don’t enjoy your life anymore because of how much you worry. Fear not though! There is hope imbedded deep within that worry. Cognitive Behavioral treatments for generalized anxiety have been shown to be highly effective for reducing the frequency, intensity, and duration of worry-based thoughts (and this is without medications too!). There is life without all consuming anxiety and worry. There is a way to overcome that Energizer Bunny in your mind. For more information about generalized anxiety and treatments, please contact my office via phone or email. You can get your life back, let’s find your spark as we extinguish the flame of worry!