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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

A Closer Look At: Anxiety

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ― Corrie ten Boom

Everyone worries from time to time. It’s normal, especially if there is a short-term stressor in your life causing you to worry. However, worrying daily about anything and everything, and letting it interfere with daily functioning, is when it becomes a problem that you might want to consider seeking help for.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists the following symptoms for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

  • Excessive worry more days than not for at least 6 months about a variety of things (school, work, personal relationships, etc.).

  • A hard time controlling the worrying.

  • Anxiety and worry are associated with 3+ (for adults) or 1+ (for kids) of the following 6 symptoms:

  1. Restless or on edge.

  2. Easily fatigued.

  3. Difficulty concentrating or mind goes blank.

  4. Irritable.

  5. Muscle tension.

  6. Difficulties with sleep (can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, etc.).

  • The anxiety or worry is causing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  • The disturbance is not due to physiological effects of a substance (drugs or medication) or another medical condition.

  • The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. worrying about contamination in obsessive-compulsive disorder or worrying about being separated from attachment figures in separation anxiety).

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that approximately 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, have GAD in a given year. GAD is twice as common in women as in men. Many individuals with GAD report that they have felt anxious and nervous their entire life. Children with GAD are often times overly worried about their competence or the quality of their performance.

Tips to help:

  • Try some relaxation techniques: Progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation (your therapist can teach you how!).

  • Learn to soothe yourself: Go to a museum, take a walk, listen to soothing music, light scented candles, cook a delicious meal and eat it slowly, pet your dog or cat, or get a massage.

  • Relationships: Identify which ones are unhealthy and elicit the help of supportive people in your life.

  • Change your lifestyle: If you read last month’s tips on depression, many of those will apply to anxiety too! Eat healthy, exercise, and stick to a sleep schedule!

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