1. Intense worrying and often internal questioning about current, future and even past scenarios along with a focus on negative hypothetical outcomes.
Example anxious thought: “What if my son gets a bike? What if his father doesn’t remind him to wear his new helmet when he rides? What if he falls off the bike, or worse a car comes and hits him? What if he cracks his head open? Maybe I shouldn’t let him get a bike. Should I let him get a bike? It could be dangerous. Maybe I should let him get a bike, I don’t want to be controlling. But what if he really hurts himself on the bike?”
2. Replaying certain memories, thoughts, and/ or experiences over and over again in their mind, and worrying about them.
Example: “Why did I say that stupid thing in that meeting? I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe they think I’m stupid now? What a stupid thing I said. I should have known better. Will I get another chance to present to the board? What if they don’t give me another chance? What if I lose my job because they think I’m stupid? What if someone was recording the whole meeting? What if they tell other people outside the company? What if I have to start looking for a new job but nobody is hiring? I shouldn’t have said that stupid thing at the meeting.”
3. Physical symptoms and panic attacks:
The more intense anxiety often leads people to have physical symptoms like: increased heart rate, tingling in their hands, difficulty sleeping, pressured speech, and even panic attacks and other issues. In addition, many people with generalized anxiety disorder have an underlying “hot thought” or deep underlying worry that they are either going to die or go crazy when they feel extremely anxious (even if they rationally know in their calmer moments that this is not true). Some people who have had panic attacks then become anxious and fixated on the fear that they will have future panic attacks.
The point is…
Most people who suffer from GAD will struggle with frequent negative worrying about present, future, and or past experiences, thoughts, or potential scenarios. The good news is that although anxiety can be very difficult, it is very common and usually treatable with a combination of motivation to improve it, psychotherapy and/or medications (in the more severe situations).