Is It Normal Worry or Generalized Anxiety Disorder??>

Is It Normal Worry or Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

by UCB Health & Wellness Publications  

Everyone worries, to some degree, about matters at work or home. And with news of violent incidents and uncertainty about the economy, who doesn’t consider worst-case scenarios? Almost everyone seems to experience worrisome thoughts. So how do you know if you have a medical condition like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

GAD symptoms are similar to the “normal worry” that everyone experiences from time to time. The difference is that with GAD, the symptoms are more frequent. For example, one study found that people without GAD tended to worry an average of 55 minutes a day, while those with GAD worried for 310 minutes each day. Other differences listed in the chart below may help you distinguish between normal worry and GAD.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. An evaluation will ensure that a physical problem isn’t responsible. GAD is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.

Normal worry:

  • Worrying does not interfere with your job or social life.
  • You feel that your concerns are controllable and can be dealt with at a later time.
  • Your worries cause only mild distress.
  • A specific cause initiated your worrying.
  • Your worries are limited to a specific topic or a small number of topics.
  • Significant worrying lasts only for a brief period.
  • Your worrying is not usually accompanied by physical or other psychological symptoms.

Generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Worrying significantly interferes with your work or social activities.
  • You feel that your worrying is out of your control.
  • Your worries are greatly distressing and pervasive.
  • Worrying began for no reason.
  • You worry about a broad range of topics, such as job performance, money, personal safety, and the safety of others.
  • You have experienced excessive worrying most of the time for six months or more.
  • Three or more physical or psychological symptoms occur with your worrying (such as sleep problems, irritability, muscle tension, trouble concentrating, fatigue, or restlessness).

This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley 2019 Depression and Anxiety White Paper.

Also see Understanding OCD and What to Know About Panic Attacks.