Home » Anxiety » Differences Between “Normal Worry” and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Everyone worries about different things and it is normal to do so. However, if your worries become so excessive that they interfere with your life or affect your health, you may have what is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The line between “normal worry” and GAD is a bit blurry. Extreme cases of GAD are fairly easy to recognize but most people that have Generalized Anxiety Disorder do not fall into the extreme category. It is thought that many people who may be suffering from mild to moderate cases of GAD may not realize they have this problem.

It is important to be able to distinguish the difference between “normal worry” and Generalized Anxiety Disorder because if you realize you are suffering from GAD, it becomes much easier to eliminate the problems it creates and improve your overall quality of life. Below, I give 7 differences between “normal worry” and GAD. Although these are common symptoms, I do want to emphasize that this is not a comprehensive list.

You may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder if:

1. You Avoid Social Situations

Many people with GAD avoid social situations and they may worry about an upcoming event for days or even weeks before it comes. Even “small” social situations like an office party or a club meeting that other people may not give a second thought become a source of worry. They may fear embarrassing themselves, being rejected by the group, or they may just be afraid of the unknown. This sometimes called “anticipation anxiety.”

2. You Worry More Than the Situation Actually Calls For

This can be a bit subjective but here’s an example. You call your spouse or partner and leave a long message and at the end ask them to return your call when they get a chance. Then you wait by the phone and worry excessively about why they aren’t calling you back right away. You may even make up all kinds of scenarios in your head as to why they aren’t calling you back and your worrying intensifies greatly as you do so. You may begin to over-analyze the message you left them and wonder if this is the reason they aren’t calling you back. You may worry so much you become quite upset and it interferes with you getting your tasks accomplished that day.

3. You Worry For a Longer Period Of Time Than the Situation Calls For

This is another rather subjective call but here’s an example. You hear a local news story about a violent crime that has occured in the city in which you live. This story would likely affect everyone that hears about it to some degree but you continue to worry about it well into the next day and possibly beyond. You worry to the extend it interferes with your ability to do things that you had planned to do.

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4. You Obsessively Worry About Every Day Things

Things that other people may not fret at all become sources of worry for you. This worry invades your thoughts whether you want it to or not and continue to do so even when you try to push these negative thoughts out of your mind. Maybe you worry excessively about the trash bag leaking or missing the beginning of a TV show or what you’ll cook for dinner. Basically, “little things” take on an exaggerated importance whether you want them to or not.

5. You Start To Show Physical Symptoms Due To Your Worries

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder often have physical manifestations of their condition. Headaches and lower back pain are very common due to excessive muscle tension. People with GAD also often experience shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. Some get dizzy and feel lightheaded. Others experience trembling hands.

6. You Have Trouble Concentrating

Excessive worrying can really distract you from tasks that require mental concentration and prevent you from completing these tasks or interfere with the quality of your output. This can affect you in the workplace and in your personal tasks.

7. Your Worries Interferes With Sleep

Everyone occasionally has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. However, if you have trouble for more than one night in a row, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You may be yawning and feeling physically tired when go to bed but when your head hits the pillow you find you can’t fall asleep. You have worrisome thoughts racing through your head that keep you awake or prevent you from getting an entirely restful night’s sleep. Lack of quality sleep can lead to a whole host of health issues and is more serious than many people realize.