health

8 Symptoms That Might Mean You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Everyone feels nervous sometimes. Usually it happens before a big event, during a transition period in life — such as moving and getting a new job — or anything that requires a lot of change.

But what if you feel that sickeningly nervous feeling all the time, even when everything is going fine?

You find that, even during calm, good times, you can’t shake the feeling that something is just wrong. Not anything in particular, but just a feeling of dread.

Or maybe you’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling tense, have been experiencing bouts of indigestion after eating, or maybe you’ve been lying awake at night and not getting enough sleep.

What gives?

Well, it might be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

This anxiety disorder manifests in frequent and excessive, usually irrational worry and dread. Worrying is a normal part of life, but typically, there’s a reason for it, and it only creeps up when there’s actually something to worry about. Unlike social anxiety, which is triggered by social situations, GAD can be triggered by anything.

But for those with GAD, the worry is always there, cutting into the happy, peaceful time, and sometimes even manifesting itself with physical symptoms. In short, it’s miserable.

There is hope, though. Being aware its symptoms means you’ll be better at tracking them. If they only appear when something major is happening, you probably don’t have GAD.

But if you notice they show up, even during good times, consider talking to professionals. They can help teach you tips and tricks to manage your anxiety, and figure out a plan of treatment that works for you.

Read on to see what to look out for.

GAD Sign #1: Persistent Worry

GAD Sign #1: Persistent Worry
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Do you feel like you’re on edge all the time, even when nothing is wrong?

Do everyday things consume you?

Do you find yourself unable to enjoy things without worrisome thoughts creeping in and spoiling your fun?

That’s persistent worry. It’s normal to worry about big things, but if you find that you worry excessively about little stuff, anxiety may be an issue for you.

GAD Sign #2: A Feeling Of Dread

GAD Sign #2: A Feeling Of Dread
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Slightly different but related to worry is the feeling of impending doom that seems to be around every corner.

This is the what if feeling that might make you wince every time the phone rings, bracing yourself for bad news.

It’s the feeling that everything in your life is balanced so precariously that one tiny mishap will bring it all crashing down.

GAD Sign #3: Sleep Trouble

GAD Sign #3: Sleep Trouble
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In this case, if something is “keeping you up at night,” it’s literal.

When GAD keeps you up, your worry might be centered around something specific, or nothing in particular, and you know that you can’t get to sleep.

You might also find that falling asleep is no problem, but that you wake up in the middle of the night or have stressful — even nightmarish — dreams.

Waking up with a tense, wired feeling in the morning is also a sign of anxiety.

GAD Sign #4: Frequent Indigestion

GAD Sign #4: Frequent Indigestion
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A churning, unsettled feeling in the stomach is another common sign of anxiety. You might find that your stomach feels tense and painful, with or without food in it.

You might also find that your eating habits have changed. Maybe you’re munching mindlessly, or maybe you’re experiencing a loss of appetite.

GAD Sign #5: Muscle Tension

GAD Sign #5: Muscle Tension
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Being anxious is the opposite of being relaxed, and nowhere is that meaning more literal than in your muscles.

Feeling tense, worried, or on-edge makes your muscles tighten and contract, and many times, we don’t even realize it.

If you find yourself feeling stiff, sore, and tight, but you haven’t done anything strenuous, it may be a result of your body clenching up due to stress and anxiety.

GAD Sign #6: Compulsive Behavior

GAD Sign #6: Compulsive Behavior
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When anxiety gets ahold of us, many of us have a behavior — usually something repetitive — that we use to comfort ourselves and regain some feeling of control.

If you find yourself repeating certain behaviors or tics, it might be a symptom of GAD.

If you feel you have to complete these actions in order to go about your day, your anxiety may be linked to obsessive behavior.

Compulsive behavior can also lead to unhealthy choices like substance abuse, which is not uncommon in those suffering from GAD. So pay attention to your behaviors.

GAD Sign #7: Sweating And/Or Shaking

GAD Sign #7: Sweating And/Or Shaking
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A common physical sign of anxiety is trembling and sweating.

You might have noticed your fingers trembling if you’ve ever had to, say, give a presentation in front of a group, or felt a cold sweat break out before a big moment.

If you feel these symptoms more frequently, though, it might be your body’s reaction to the anxiety you’re feeling.

Many times, these symptoms show up in social situations, which just makes you more anxious.

GAD Sign #8: Heart Palpitations

GAD Sign #8: Heart Palpitations
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A racing heart is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a throwback to the ancient days when danger meant a big scary animal and that you had to run.

But a pounding heart, even when things are going fine, isn’t good for you, as it increases blood pressure and puts a strain on your heart.

If you find that relatively small, simple events set your heart pounding, it might be the result of GAD.

If you think you might have GAD or another form of anxiety, talk to a professional about your options.

And SHARE this information with anyone feeling nervous so they can stay healthy!