There are many people that suffer from one form or another of anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a recognized authority on various mental health issues, about 17 to 20% of the American population may suffer some type of anxiety disorder. Given the current state of the country, society and the world at large, this is not surprising.
GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, is like being in a chronic or continued state of worry and anxiety. This can be a specific as a mother's concern for her child who walks to school everyday. Or as general as being constantly worried about anything or everything you need to do during the day. Understand were not talking about general concern about safety crossing the street.
In the example above of the mother being worried about her child, someone with an anxiety disorder may not even be able to consider allowing their child to walk to school. The idea of their son or daughter walking along a public sidewalk and possibly even crossing a street is just too terrifying to bear. This type of behavior can also have long-term consequences that can negatively impact the child.
Understand that there are varying degrees of almost any mental illness. While most people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder are able to continue to function, some are paralyzed by the fear of making any decision.
I have a relative who has refused to seek treatment for years and has continued to spiral down into a morass of mental disorders. While many in the family considered her mental state and decision making ability simply "quirky", in hindsight, there were many signs of mental illness. These unfortunately were ignored because although there were both mental and physical symptoms, she was still able to function and continue on in her daily life.
While her family members continued to dismiss her many symptoms as personality traits, she developed ever more serious symptoms. As years went by the family was required to modify their personal interactions to placate the situation and keep her in a somewhat safe place. This in turn allowed the spiral to continue and the symptoms to worsen. While at first this family member suffered with GAD, over the years her condition worsened to where she now shows signs of depression, obsessive-compulsive characteristics, paranoia and panic.
She is now almost unable to make any decision at all. And lives in a constant state of anxiety and worry about the possibility of making a mistake or wrong decision. In attempting to work through a decision-making scenario, she will consistently develop situations where all answers are potentially wrong and therefore put herself in a state of constant and continued worry.
She appears to be developing signs of paranoia and now demonstrates a lack of trust toward everyone. Her days are filled with emotional anxiety while picking and pulling at her hair and eyebrows. Fitful sleep comes only from emotional exhaustion.
The moral of the story is that everyone should understand the basics symptoms of the most common mental disorders. Although only a qualified professional can accurately diagnose mental illness, we should be able to recognize the symptoms if only to encourage people we know to get help. If you or a loved one may be suffering from anxiety or depression, you owe it to yourself to understand the symptoms and get help as soon as possible.