Understanding Severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder

Last Updated on 13 January 2022

Severe generalized anxiety disorder is largely widespread nowadays. It is known with the terms Anxiety, Anxiety disorder and GAD, as well. I decided to discuss it, because I also suffered from this disorder in my lifetime.

For this reason, I believe that my personal experience can help you better understand what severe generalized anxiety disorder is. Let’s start from the beginning, namely understanding what anxiety really is.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most ancestral emotion of human beings. As an emotion, anxiety is linked with fear, rather, it is the clearest expression of our fear. It is a defense mechanism that our mind triggers to help us better cope with the troubles of life.

In this sense, anxiety is not a negative thing, rather, it is extremely positive. It expands, in fact, our degree of attention allowing us to avoid risks and easily reach our goals.

Fear

Anxiety, indeed, is the mind-body response to stress. It helps us face, manage and overcome all the stressors we’ll go through in our lifetime.

And so, when, and why, sometimes, anxiety becomes disruptive, debilitating and more similar to a disorder?

The “When”. Anxiety as a Disorder

Anxiety turns into a disorder when it is out of proportion with the events you have to face.

In this case, you get overly worried about anything you must face in your daily life, such as work, relationships, money, sex, health and so on.

In short, severe generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worries regarding usual events of life that, normally, don’t cause any danger.

Indeed, anxiety is a type of inner fear we feel toward a risk or a danger which has not happened yet, but which might happen in the future…

Anxiety disorder leverages the same mechanism: it does not regard the present time, but the future. It is a mental process that suggests you avoid risks.

When worries overcome a certain limit, they can be extremely paralyzing, preventing you from conducting a normal life, having normal relationships and even having sex!

As regards this aspect, let’s go to know more about the true essence of anxiety.

Severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety disorder does not always occur with a common feeling of fear, its symptoms, indeed, may be more misleading, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Sudden Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Speed talking
  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain and diarrhea
  • Frequent urination

All these symptoms have the function to block your action to avoid danger. Unfortunately, there is no real danger when you must face a new meeting, a job interview or make love.

A normal anxiety should be triggered when someone points a knife against your chest, for example, and not for a meeting that does not entail any risk for your life.

However, if you suffer from anxiety disorder, the mechanism of fear triggers anyway, even for common and unharmful events. The symptoms can be extremely severe and debilitating, pushing you to give up or cancel your appointments.

Gradually, you become unable to control your anxiety, falling into isolation and loneliness. I know all these feelings because I have had first-hand experience with them.

When you have them, you can define yourself as affected by severe generalized anxiety disorder. As you can see, the symptoms of anxiety are psychological and physical.

The latter occur because anxiety prepares our body to face a danger, causing the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and consequent changes in some of the bodily functions, such as frequent need to pee, or stomach contractions which, in turn, may cause diarrhea or constipation.

My maternal grandmother, for example, was an anxious woman. When she had her anxiety attacks, she couldn’t go to the bath for 10 days! She ended up hospitalized for that! I have had the opposite problem, instead, namely going to the bath many times per day during my anxiety attacks.

This detail could push you to believe that there is a genetic link for severe generalized anxiety disorder. Maybe there is. Let’s explore it further.

The “Why”. Causes of Anxiety Disorder

Severe generalized anxiety disorder has two main causes: psychological and physical ones, just like the symptoms.

Psychological causes relate to the economic, social, or family environment where you have lived. Anxiety, indeed, does not occur suddenly, it is triggered by a mental process which builds up over time.

If your parents were anxious, if your social and economic conditions have been hard, it is likely you’ll develop anxiety disorder.

However, today, anxiety reached such high peaks that psychological causes could be much more than you think.

Even though ancient kings, emperors and pharaohs suffered from anxiety due to famines, wars and conflicts; the anxiety of today is very common worldwide and affects women, teens, children and men, even though they mustn’t cope straight with war or famine.

We can say anxiety is the main scourge of our epoch.

The True Why of Severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Our epoch has been built to generate anxiety and make people anxious. Just read the newspapers to understand this aspect: featured news regarding disasters, injustice, wars, and, for some time now, diseases and pandemics.

Every day, we get accustomed to our daily dose of bad news and consequent anxiety. Information and communication are built to raise unpleasant emotions, especially fear and uncertainty.

Marketing and advertising always launch the same message: win, beat your competitors, find more customers, sell more, stand out of the crowd.

These steady messages put people into a constant condition of worry and fear of not reaching the standards of those who imposed them.

We live in a world of expectations; these are meant as the goals we can or can’t reach in the future. In short, in this contemporary world, we are always forced to think ahead, to future events, future disasters and future successes.

But expectations are, often, fake, like monsters disguised as dreams, and, in the fear of not achieving them, we, often, experience anxiety.

To cope with the bad consequences of generalized anxiety disorder, and, perhaps, to get rid of it, the first approach is, hence, psychological and aimed to break down the anxiogenic thoughts that your mind built up over time.

First of all, you mustn’t aim to reach great results, because you don’t need them. Secondly, you must accustom yourself to not think about your future.

The perverse game of anxiety is just this: it pushes you thinking to the future. When you are anxious, you are not living in the present, but in a catastrophic future envisioned only in your anxious mind!

This sensation is not real, it is fake, just like the aforementioned expectations.

Living the present life is challenging, but it is worth your efforts in terms of mental balance and physical wellness.

I understood the perverse mechanism of anxiety only in recent years and for that I decided to share it with you.

However, extremely severe anxiety attacks can have a detrimental impact on your life. They have had it on mine. Hence, I know what I am discussing.

If you can’t control them, your life may turn out extremely complicated. You will be unable to go out even with your friends for the fear of stomach pain, or the urgent need to pee!

When these attacks and symptoms become too frequent and last for over 6 months, at least, you must discover if your anxiety has physical causes.

Physical causes of Anxiety

According to an article published on Psychiatric Times , there are 7 different illnesses that may present as anxiety:

  1. Cushing disease (it causes high cortisol)
  2. diabetes mellitus
  3. parathyroid disease (hyperparathyroidism, pseudo-hyperparathyroidism)
  4. pancreatic tumors
  5. pheochromocytoma
  6. pituitary disease
  7. thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis)

These illnesses also involve stress hormones, undermining the production of cortisol, adrenaline and aldosterone. Many of these diseases may have severe effects on the functions of our body.

There is also another illness that may cause anxiety. It is the adrenal insufficiency. When the latter occurs like a genetic disorder, the symptoms and the consequences are not particularly severe and may be perceived only through a steady and perpetual anxiety.

As regards my case, I suffered from anxiety because of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Indeed, you must know that thyroid and adrenal glands work together to regulate the production of cortisol, the notorious hormone which helps us manage stress.

If these glands do not work well and produce high or low cortisol, they may cause symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

It has also been observed that anxiety disorder is often associated with depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These mental illnesses, in fact, have anxiety among their main symptoms.

How to Treat Anxiety

Hence, before concluding you have anxiety, get in touch with your doctor to explore any bodily causes of your pathological worries. If the causes are physical, anxiety heals when you treat the illnesses that caused it.

If your anxiety is psychological or if it is a symptom of another mental disorder, you must reach a psychiatrist or a psychologist to get prescribed with a tranquilizer or set a proper psychotherapy.

Unfortunately, psychoactive drugs, such as tranquilizers, may give addiction. Moreover, people with anxiety are more likely to develop several types of addiction.

By contrast, psychotherapy helps you follow a healthy lifestyle that can relieve your anxiety without medications.

A practical and doable tip is this: when you are about to face a new commitment, don’t think about it, focus your attention on the same day you are living, get accustomed to do it regularly, and you’ll see your anxiety lessen.

Focus on a thing you love. When I feel my anxiety rising, for example, I go to walk amid the woods near my home. Also, turn off TV or switch the channel when you hear bad news, rest as much as possible, eat healthy and if you discover to have nutrient deficiencies, as happens with Hashimoto’s’ thyroiditis, replenish them with supplements.

I relieved my anxiety caused by my thyroiditis through a healthy diet made of organic food, B and D Vitamin supplements, and exercise.

Furthermore, I used a certain dose of mindfulness to cope with my anxiety attacks. I learnt to not have too many goals in my life, and to accept my own limitations. Anxious people in fact are also persons with a perfectionist temper.

Conclusion

As you can see, anxiety develops through causes coming from our body (diseases) or our mind (mental disorders). Nevertheless, its journey is always the same: taking you to a hell of distress that empties you and causes even physical symptoms.

For the large spreading, nowadays, anxiety disorder is nearly a lifestyle.

Of course, the pandemic has worsened anxiety globally, but this feeling also relates to the future.

However, we are not born to think of the future, but to live the present. Our mission is to share love with others and not rivalry and injustice. If we learn this lesson, we’ll learn to ward anxiety off, also. Even in a time of pandemic.   

References and Bibliography

  1. Arti Patel – Urges to pee and other ways our bodies react to anxiety – May 9, 2019 – Global News
  2. Premier Health – Beware High Levels of Cortisol, the Stress Hormone – February 5, 2017 – https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/beware-high-levels-of-cortisol-the-stress-hormone
  3. Yu Dong, MD, PhD, Fatima Noorani, MD, Rushi Vyas, MD, Chandrika Balgobin, DO, Vanessa Torres-Llenza, MD, Catherine Crone, MD – 7 Medical Illnesses That May Present as Anxiety – May 19, 2017 – Psychiatric Times
  4. Yamamoto T. (2015). Comorbid Latent Adrenal Insufficiency with Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. European thyroid journal, 4(3), 201–206. https://doi.org/10.1159/000433532 – Published online Jun 25, 2015 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637507/

Author: Rosalba Mancuso
Rosalba Mancuso is a medical journalist, an international content writer credited at the University of Washington and a blogger born in Sicily. She is popular for founding four websites in English. On Modernhealthinfo.com, Rosalba writes well researched and detailed health articles backed by her experience as a medical writer for pharma companies and as a PR assistant for a clinical analysis laboratory. She is also a member of the AHCJ, American Association of Health Care Journalists and Center for Excellence in Health Journalism.

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