What is normal?
Sometimes it is difficult to determine when getting nervous or anxious is a normal feeling, and when you might have an anxiety disorder. For instance, it is natural to nervous or anxious in certain situations; like when you’re at a party where you do not know anyone or when you are about to tell the person that you like how you feel about them. However, for some, this feeling of anxiety begins to have an impact on their day to day lives.
Anxiety does not always exhibit itself in the same way. Each person experiences anxiety in a different way. While some may experience social anxiety that is expressed by a mild discomfort, others might experience a phobia of a certain object or situation that leads to a panic attack. Because of this, it is not always easy to know what is considered “normal” and what would be classified as having an anxiety disorder.
One thing to remember is that regardless of the severity of the anxiety you experience, there are resources out there to help you deal with it. These include support groups, self-help books and techniques to learn to “shut off your brain” from anxiety.
If any of the symptoms below fit with your experience, it might be a good idea to speak with your doctor and get their professional medical opinion.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD (the overarching type of anxiety) is characterized by a constant worry. This type of worrying can be about something small like being a couple of minutes late for a doctor’s appointment or about something big like getting in a terrible car accident on the way to your appointment.
These are things like we likely all worry about. However, it is important to gain an understanding of what is considered worrying “too much.” To quote Sally Winston, PsyD, who co-directs the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland, “The distinction between an anxiety disorder and just having normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction.”
Two key components that must be present with GAD are:
A) Experiencing anxious thoughts that persist throughout most of your week for a time period of at least six months; and
B) Experiencing anxiety so extreme that it interrupts your ability to live your life as you would normally and you experience other symptoms such as fatigue and irritability.
Therefore, if you find yourself excessively worrying about an upcoming exam for a couple of weeks, this would not fit with GAD.
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