The winter holidays can have a huge impact on individuals suffereing from generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD), despite its name, is far more intense and debilitating than the everyday anxiety experienced by most people.  Even when there is no discernible reason, sufferers of GAD experience chronic feelings of elevated anxiety and these feelings are often exacerbated by the hectic pace of the winter holidays.

If you are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder then it is likely that you spend a lot of your time worrying excessively and tend to expect disaster to strike at any moment.  You probably also find it hard, if not impossible, to relax and this means that, for sufferers, generalized anxiety disorder during the winter holidays can prove particularly trying for both you and those around you.

The following are signs and symptoms that someone may experience  when suffering from generalized anxiety disorder:

• Nausea
• Breathlessness
• Dizziness
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Muscle tension

• Difficulty swallowing
• Hot flushes
• Trembling
• Irritability
• Sweating
• Need to visit the bathroom more frequently
• Difficulty concentrating

Clearly, any of these could prove embarrassing or difficult to handle in a social situation such as a Christmas or Thanksgiving family dinner or party. 

Unlike sufferers of social anxiety disorder, however, most of those diagnosed with GAD do not consciously avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder.  While this can be a good thing as far as the holiday season goes, it is still advisable for sufferers of generalized anxiety disorder to take steps to lessen their symptoms during what can be a stressful time for everyone.

As GAD rarely occurs alone but is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse or another anxiety disorder then this must be taken into account when prescribing treatment.  Similarly, as medication is often used to control GAD then it is wise to consider any contraindications and to avoid alcohol and excess sugar, caffeine or other stimulants whenever possible.  Quite apart from other concerns, both alcohol and caffeine interfere with sleep patterns.  As those suffering from GAD often find it hard to get to sleep, or to experience uninterrupted sleep, then anything which further disrupts rest can only add to the already debilitating effects of this condition.

Given the temptations of the winter holiday period with its parties and other social gatherings, avoidance of alcohol and rich, sugar and fat-laden food can often prove difficult.  This is where sufferers of generalized anxiety disorder need to set limits for themselves and to understand that, by controlling their intake of substances which can only worsen their condition, they are helping to control the condition itself.  Simply knowing that they are in some small way in control can have a positive impact on those diagnosed with GAD, allowing them to see that they can still enjoy the winter holidays as long as they work within the limitations of their condition.

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Filed under: AnxietyHoliday Stress

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