Great question, and I hadn't really thought about how I would define GAD for myself until a few weeks ago when I was trying to explain it to a family member. I have always been more anxious/sensitive than most people I know, and I am pretty sure I've been living with GAD from the time I was a very young child. The way I would describe my GAD is this: For me, the feelings of anxiety and dread come and go - seemingly out of nowhere. I'll be fine, going about my life, and then BAM! Something (usually something that would not really alarm a non-GAD person) will send me into a downward spiral. The things that set me off vary - anything from feeling that I have a serious health issue to thinking that there is something horribly wrong with my house to intense worry about what people are thinking about me. I tend to obsess over whatever issue has set me off - for awhile - and when the issue resolves itself, the anxiety does not go away. It just seems to attach itself to something else. As each issue (imagined or real) is resolved, the anxiety remains, and if there isn't something obvious for me to attach it to, I will look for something - anything - to be anxious about. Eventually, the anxious feelings subside, and I am able to live normally until the next episode strikes.
My main symptoms are:
- Whatever I'm worried about plays over and over in my head - like a tape that you can't turn off.
- Inability to concentrate (can't read or watch TV or have a real conversation) because I keep going back to the obsessive thoughts.
- Difficulty staying asleep.
- Rapid heart beat - especially in the early hours of the morning - 3 or 4ish.
- Sinking feeling in my stomach.
- Nervous energy - having to keep busy for fear that my thoughts will make me go crazy.
I guess that overall, I picture my GAD as a velcro ball. The ball rolls in with a worry on it, and once that worry subsides, the ball keeps rolling until another worry sticks to it. This cycle repeats until there is no more velcro for worries to stick to, then the ball rolls away. At any point in the future, another velcro ball rolls on in. That is really my GAD in a nutshell. Looking forward to reading about everyone else's experiences. Wishing all a beautiful and peaceful weekend.