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What I'm Sick of Hearing as Someone With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which means I feel a constant state of high anxiety, often known as “chronic worrying” or “free floating” anxiety.

“Free floating anxiety” feels like playing a whack-a-mole game at an arcade. As soon as one issue is resolved, another worry pops up. Racing thoughts, loss of concentration and an inability to focus are also characteristics of GAD.

We all suffer with worry from time to time, but the thing that makes GAD different from “normal worry” is that the worry is prolonged (it lasts for over 6 months), and the level of worry is out of proportion to the risk. For example, if a partner is an hour late from work (without calling) a GAD sufferer may think “they must have had an accident,” rather than any other just as likely scenario (“they’ve been delayed in traffic”). These thoughts can be described as catastrophic, or jumping to the worst possible conclusion.

GAD is a particularly difficult disorder to live with because it’s constantly on the sufferer’s mind. There is no respite. It can cause problems with sleep, ability to maintain a job as well as impact close relationships.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am fed up of hearing people say:

1. “I know, I’ve been so stressed lately too…”

Yes, everyone gets stressed sometimes, but for someone who suffers from anxiety, it’s not just about stress. For those who live with chronic anxiety, there’s a real difference between what’s happening in our lives versus how we’re feeling inside. Then, added stress brought on by external factors only makes that underlying anxiety worse.

2. “Don’t worry…”

There are so many useful, caring, helpful, comforting, understanding and loving things to say to someone who is struggling with mental health issues. But simply telling me to not worry doesn’t help. 

3. “You should try…”

Because symptoms sometimes present themselves as “normal” aspects of a person’s life, it’s easy for people who don’t live with anxiety to think whatever helps them must help someone with GAD. Instead of saying “you should try” maybe you should say, “How about seeking professional help?” I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds a lot better than “you should try.”

4. “It is totally normal…”

It might be more common than we all think, but living with a mental illness of any sort is far from “normal stress.” When I try and explain generalized anxiety disorder to someone, it feels like I’m speaking to a brick wall.

It can be hard living with GAD. I gradually feel like I’m getting better, and then I have a really awful day and I’m knocked back. And this constantly repeats itself, which gets tiring.

But saying something simple like, “How can I help you?” or “I love you and I am always here for you,” always makes me feel better, and can make all the difference in the world.

Follow this journey on Katie Gloria

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Originally published: May 9, 2016
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