Anxiety happens to all of us occasionally. But when someone has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), worry becomes excessive, pervasive, and long-lasting. When you have GAD, you may not be able to control your worries and anxieties - they begin to control you. Anxiety symptoms can affect you on multiple levels:

  • Anxiety can affect how you think and feel. Your thoughts may be clouded by doubts about the near and distant future, and a sense of doom that "something is bound to go wrong." You may also think that you cannot control your thoughts, and you may wonder if your worries will escalate to a point where you could "go crazy." Excessive worry is often associated with changes in feelings such as increased irritability, lowered mood, and demoralization.
  • Anxiety can affect how you behave. When you're constantly anxious, you may avoid situations that could trigger more stress and worry. You may even shrink from exposing yourself to day-to-day circumstances that could possibly provoke more worry, like reading newspapers or watching the nightly news. Your concentration may be affected, as anxieties and worries distract you from the things you should be focusing on. The feelings of irritability and moodiness that often accompany excessive worry can affect how you interact with others, negatively impacting your relationships.
  • Anxiety can affect you physically. In general, chronic worry can make you restless, disrupt your sleep, and even trigger or worsen gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea. In moments of extreme worry, you may feel panic-like physical symptoms, including rapid, pounding heartbeat; chest pain or discomfort; shortness of breath; sweating; trembling and shaking; a sense that things are "unreal"; dizziness and unsteadiness; and a feeling of choking. These physical sensations may lead to further worries that you could pass out or die from your anxiety.

If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, take a step toward resolving your worry. Know that even though anxiety may hijack your thoughts, rattle your nerves, and sap you of your energy, it can be managed. Explore ways that you can relieve anxiety through daily self-care or through therapy or medication.