Consider the following, in which “Chase” describes her feelings of a persistent and exaggerated sense of anxiety, even when there is little or nothing in her life to provoke it:
For a few months now I’ve had a really bad feeling inside of me. The best way to describeit is like a really bad feelingof negative inevitability, like something really bad is impending, but I don’t know what. It’s like I’m on trial for murder or I’m just waiting to be sent down for something. I haveit all of the time but it gets worse in waves that come from nowhere with no apparent triggers. I used to get it before going out for nights out with friends, and it kinda stopped me from doing it as I’d rather not go out and stress about the feeling, but now I have it all thet ime so it doesn’t really makea difference anymore.(Chase, 2010) 1
Chase is probably suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a psychological disorder diagnosed in situations in which a person has been excessively worrying about money, health, work, family life, or relationships for at least 6 months, even though heor she knows that the concerns are exaggerated, and when theanxiety causes significant distress and dysfunction.
In addition to their feelings of anxiety, people who suffer from GAD may also experience a variety of physical symptoms, including irritability, sleep troubles, difficulty concentrating, muscle aches, trembling, perspiration, and hot flashes. The sufferer cannot deal with what is causing the anxiety, nor avoid it, because there is no clear cause for anxiety. In fact, the sufferer frequently knows, at least cognitively, that there is really nothing to worry about.
About 10 million Americans suffer from GAD, and about two thirds are women (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, & Walters, 2005; Robins & Regier, 1991). 2 Generalized anxiety disorder is most likely to develop between the ages of 7 and 40 years, but its influence may in some cases lessen with age (Rubio & Lopez-Ibor, 2007). 3