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January 21, 2010 / allyo

Living with anxiety

If you have Generalized Anxiety disorder, chances are, you feel crappy a good deal of the time:

They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.

At this moment in time I am having trouble concentrating, have a headache, have v tense shoulder and neck muscles, am lightheaded and a little twitchy. I’m probably not going to have a super productive day. Which only makes me more anxious.

You’re at higher risk for developing GAD if you’re a woman (check), experienced childhood trauma (check), have a chronic health condition or serious illness, high levels of stress (check), have a certain personality type (possibly), have a family history of GAD (check), and abuse various substances. Brain chemistry is another possible cause.

High levels of stress and anxiety are associated with higher production of cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar (interesting – I’m hypo rather than hyperglycemic but GAD symptoms do resemble those of a blood sugar spike and crash), and reduces immune responses. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol can also result in impaired cognitive performance (or as my therapist puts it, the chance that I’ll “fry my brain”), suppressed thyroid function, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, and increased abdominal fat (which comes with its own health risks).

GAD can be treated by drug therapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two (check). There are supplements that seem to help, and lifestyle adjustments can be critical (working on these).

All of this is to say, if you suspect you have GAD or you’ve been diagnosed, take it seriously. I’ve got another post brewing on GAD’s impact on my life.

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