As if living with dissociative identity disorder weren’t enough, many survivors, including myself, also live in the hades of generalized or some other type of anxiety disorder.
In this piece, I’m not just going to tell you about surviving despite generalized anxiety disorder, but also a little about how it is negatively affecting my life.
Adaptive, Evolutionary Anxiety
One would be forgiven if they believed that all anxiety is bad, but the facts do not prove that. In fact, anxiety is a kind of fear that helps us prepare for danger or something that is frightening. Anxiety causes a heightened awareness such as when a massive storm is coming and there has been a tornado warning. Anxiety helps us to watch the sky and readies us to run for cover should the need arise. Anxiety is an evolutionary adaptation that keeps us alive.
Humans cope with environmental dangers through the use of sensory organs that sense or see danger so we can avoid death or injury. The amygdala in our brain reacts to danger far earlier than our thinking brain parts. This means that during adaptive anxiety, humans may vocalize or try to run away from the danger even if they are not consciously aware at first. We have four choices we can make once danger is observed, fight, flight, freeze, or fawn depending upon the circumstances we find ourselves in or learned behavior from a previous similar event.
When Adaptive Anxiety Goes Wrong
At what point does normal anxiety become maladaptive and damaging? For survivors of early childhood trauma, the ability to distinguish the line between ordinary and extraordinary stress becomes blurred. Thus, the basis for forming generalized anxiety disorder for most people is trying to deal with situations where being worried or frightened goes far beyond what is normal.
What is the definitive difference between ordinary anxiety and maladaptive anxiety?
An article published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers clues as to when anxiety crosses the line. It quoted a poll which stated conducted by the Washington Post-ABC News that reported that more than 6 of 10 Americans they approached are stressed over the national economic problems with one-third reporting serious stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America conducted an online poll that found 77% of those polled stated that economic problems caused a moderate to severe amounts of stress.
This is what many consider average stress.
It is when the average stressors everyone faces turn into worry for many hours and every day to the point where you cannot sleep or live as normally you would that draws the line between average stress and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Who Forms GAD and What are the Symptoms?
The National Institute of Mental Health lists on their website (and quoted below) many factors that can lead to the development of generalized anxiety disorder. They are as follows:
- Shyness, or behavioral inhibition, in childhood
- Being female
- Having few economic resources
- Being divorced or widowed
- Anxiety disorders in close biological relatives
- Parental history of mental disorders
- Exposure to stressful life events in childhood and adulthood
The last on the list of potential causes for the formation of GAD is where my disorder came from and how it can be linked to dissociative identity disorder. As many of my readers already understand, DID is a trauma-related disorder that stems from exposure to extreme child abuse and neglect. It is not surprising at all that children who grow up under such circumstances would form a co-occurring disorder like GAD.
An extensive list of symptoms for generalized anxiety disorder are found below:
- Feeling nervous
- Feeling irritable
- Having a sense of impending danger or doom
- Feeling panicked
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak
- Feeling an internal tiredness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Feeling lonely
- Using alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes to relax
Living in the Hell of Both Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder
It has been my experience that the symptoms of GAD and DID feed off each other. I can become overwhelmed with anxiety which in turn causes me to dissociate and then I feel anxious because I dissociated. It’s a vicious circle that I have yet to conquer.
There are coping skills one can try, though, to mitigate the symptoms of both. These include:
- Trying to maintain a positive outlook
- Staying grounded in the now
- For some, turning to religious or spiritual practices
- Seeking acceptance and support with other multiples
- Reading or otherwise engaging the mind
- Accept the things you cannot change
Two important tips for to carry out these coping skills is to practice them when you are feeling well so you will be ready when you need them and remember that what works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa.
Generalized anxiety disorder keeps me isolated and alone because I can’t face people when I’m hurting. Never think GAD doesn’t hurt because it is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I can manage the trauma of discovering how harmed I was by those who were supposed to love and protect me when I was a kid better than the effects GAD has on my life.
However, I’ll keep on keepin’ on even though I am having a horrendous time right now. The truth is that I’m too stubborn and curious to give up, so I struggle forward. Eventually, or so I allow myself to believe, my books and other writings will earn me enough money to live on instead of me making only a few bucks a month. I have to think and believe that things will get better to keep my head above water. I’ve almost drowned in the waves of suicidal ideations before, I do not wish to be swept out to sea and lose my life like so many multiples have before me.
“If you were able to fall a hundred times as a child and rise, you are able to fall a thousand times as a grown-up and soar.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo
GAD and DID
People who experience anxiety are haunted by their memories and experiences, and although they desperately wish to get past them, they normally cannot. In some cases, however, such as with Jeffrey Ingram, people who become overwhelmed by stress experience an altered state of consciousness in which they become detached from the reality of what is happening to them. A dissociative disorder is a condition that involves disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, and identity. The dissociation is used as a defense against the trauma.