Last updated:

August 30, 2022

5

 min read

How to know if you are experiencing normal anxiety or GAD

Anxiety is a normal response to stress. For example, if you have an important exam or are running late for something, you'd normally feel anxious. That is because such situations introduce you to certain stressors or triggers for anxiety. But what if you start to experience anxiety more severely and frequently compared to others? What if the feelings do not subside even after the stressors have been dealt with? Well, if your anxiety feels uncontrollable or starts to interfere with your day-to-day activities, or you experience something resembling an anxiety attack, it might be a disorder. Wondering how to pinpoint these differences? Keep reading to find out!

Reviewed by
Ekata
Written by
Ipsa Khurana
TABLE OF CONTENTS

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety, when it turns into a disorder and starts disrupting regular activities, can involve:

  • Sudden and intense fears
  • Racing thoughts
  • Persistent worry to the extent of panic attacks or anxiety attacks

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder can start to show during someone's childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

Anxiety attacks can peak within minutes. They are repeated episodes of exaggerated panic without any apparent reason. Anxiety attacks are difficult to control and are often disproportionate to their triggers. This can also cause you to avoid certain places or situations (for example, social gatherings).  

If this is the extent to which you feel anxious, your anxiety might indicate a medical condition that requires diagnosis. Professional help can help you manage your anxiety and adopt helpful behavioural techniques. In such cases, you can talk to your doctor or find a therapist online.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Here are some commonly occurring anxiety disorders:

  1. Generalised Anxiety disorder (GAD): The signs characterising GAD include constant, excessive, and unrealistic apprehension and worry. Most times, these fears are not triggered by something specific. People with GAD are prone to panic attacks as well. We will take you through this condition in more detail in the next section.
  2. Panic DIsorder: This is characterised by sudden, intense feelings of overwhelming fear and panic. Frequent panic attacks are the primary symptoms of a panic disorder. Panic disorders manifest physically as well, through signs such as sweating, heart palpitations, and feeling suffocated. 
  3. Social Anxiety DIsorder: This is the fear of social situations and difficulty navigating such situations due to intense self-consciousness and fear of judgement, leading to severe anxiety.
  4. Phobias: Phobias of particular things, such as heights or certain creatures like spiders, can also induce signs of anxiety.
  5. Separation Anxiety Disorder: This refers to the fear that something bad might happen to a person when they lose your sight.

So, What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

While you might mistake generalised anxiety disorder for 'normal anxiety', the two conditions are actually very different. GAD is characterised by worrying excessively, persistently, and disproportionately about the circumstances. Worrying about virtually everything - even things that are not stressful - is a classic sign of GAD. Clinical depression and other anxiety disorders often coexist with GAD.

The symptoms must last for at least six months for GAD to be diagnosed. Plus, they should also disrupt your regular day-to-day functioning in different spheres of your life. Some of these symptoms are:

Psychological symptoms

  • Always imagining/fixating on the worst-case scenario while dealing with a problem
  • Problems concentrating; feeling like your mind goes ‘blank’ when you try to focus
  • Finding it hard to deal with uncertainty or indecisiveness
  • Difficulty settling with a decision due to the fear of making a wrong decision
  • Inability to relax or unwind; constantly feeling restless, as if you are ‘on the edge’
  • Worrying about the fact that you might be worrying excessively 
  • Feeling easily startled or irritable

Physical symptoms

  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Light-headedness 
  • Frequent headaches
  • Trembling or twitching 
  • Constant fatigue 
  • Nausea or diarrhoea 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Rapid heartbeat

Signs You Might Have An Anxiety Disorder

Do you find a lot of the symptoms listed above relatable? That’s alright, check if any of these resonate with you to figure out if you are (possibly) experiencing an anxiety disorder. 

  1. Social situations terrify you

You find yourself avoiding people and situations - these can range from phone calls to presentations to parties - that you think might cause anxiety. You fear you might make a fool of yourself, which leads to symptoms like sweating, rapid heartbeat, or shaky hands. 

  1. You relate to most of these symptoms and they have persisted chronically.

Having symptoms of GAD at times (with recognisable triggers) is okay! But if the signs persist for a long time, even in the absence of stressors, you can try to find a therapist online.

  1. Excessive worrying is disrupting your social, personal or professional life.

If your anxiety is causing interferences in different spheres of your life - for example, work, romantic relationships, or friendships - you might have an anxiety disorder.

  1. You are not able to control disproportionate anxiety.

Your fears are exaggerated and not rooted in reality. You have uncontrollable thought spirals that often lead you to think of worst-case scenarios, causing you to be constantly unsettled.

Need Help?

You may have an anxiety disorder if you relate to the symptoms and signs we listed in this article. However, it is best to seek professional help and not self-diagnose it. Also, remember that help is always available! 

Therapy and medication can help you relax, preventing the symptoms of GAD from worsening. Want to try online counselling for anxiety or see a psychiatrist? At Rocket Health, we have you covered!

References Anxiety disorders - Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961 Guy-Evans, O. (2022, March 15). The Difference Between GAD and Social Anxiety Disorder. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/difference-between-gad-and-social-anxiety-disorder.html Meek, W. (2020, December 4). The Difference Between Normal Anxiety and GAD. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-gad-1393143 The Difference Between Normal Anxiety and GAD. (n.d.). Transformations Treatment Center. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.transformationstreatment.center/resources/anxiety-disorders/the-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-gad/