Are You Just A Worrier, Or Do You Have An Anxiety Disorder?

When worrying is a sign of something serious.

There are some times in life when comparing yourself to other people is futile. Knowing whether you worry the same amount or more than most is one of those times.

No one else can climb inside your skin and say, ‘Oh yes, that’s exactly how I feel’, or scramble inside your mind and come out wide-eyed saying, ‘Woah, that’s pretty extreme’.

I know that I’m a worrier. I know that because it occupies a lot of my time. I have to work really hard at remaining in the moment rather than letting my mind yank me off into the land of ‘What if…?’. I knew it was time for me to see a doctor when my panic attacks affected my sleep and were making me physically sick, but everyone’s different. There are no prizes for the length of time you endure difficulty and nothing to be gained from trying to be tough and ride it out.

However, there is a difference between worrying and identifying that you have an anxiety disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) means you feel anxious or worried most of the time, not just in times of exceptional stress. It’s estimated approximately 10 per cent of teens and 40 per cent of adults suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in their lives, and it’s reported that the condition appears to affect women more than men.

So if you’re worried about your worrying, ask yourself these key questions, and if you’re still concerned, make an appointment with your GP for a chat.

Has your worry taken over?

While more people feel stressed out before exams or when they’re having a specifically tough time in life, people with GAD typically feel anxious and worried most of the time, and these worries interfere with their ability to go about their life.

Is your worry ‘fear’ based?

“A simple way to differentiate between worry and anxiety is that the former is concern and the latter is about fear,” explains psychologist, Dr Erica Frydenberg.

“That is, when you worry about things that you can’t change, the concern is excessively persistent and interferes with your pleasure and focus on things you need to attend, like work, then it can become an anxiety disorder. In these cases you are fearing the outcomes and that interferes with your daily functioning. That is the time to seek professional help.”

Are even little things worrying you?

When minor things such as housework and what you’re going to eat or wear for the day become the focus of your anxiety, and especially when they’re underscored by the persistent worry that something terrible will happen, you’ve officially crossed over from general worrying to anxiety.

Are you experiencing these symptoms?

Common symptoms can include feeling irritable and tired easily, muscle tension, having difficulty concentrating and problems sleeping. If you’ve had similar symptoms for six months or more, on more days than not, you should see a professional for advice.

Don’t wait, get help early…

There is absolutely no need to fret about making an appointment to discuss what’s going on in your head with your doctor.

“It is quite acceptable to seek professional help to improve one’s performance in anything; sport, work and wellbeing. It is about self-improvement being the best you can be,” says Frydenberg.

“If you are generally a worrier it is good to ‘nip it in the bud’ and get help early before it develops into anxiety. If you do not know where to get help for your wellbeing coaching, a GP is often the most convenient first port of call and they will generally refer you to a psychologist.”

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Comment: Have you ever suffered from an anxiety disorder?