“I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t qualify as depressed any longer,” the mental health woman told me on the phone.
“Oh… I see…” I said, not knowing how to take that.
“That means that we can’t put you in the depression group therapy after all,” she explained, “but you do qualify for our Generalized Anxiety Disorder group. There should be one starting in the new year.”
I told my about doctor this, but I was a little dubious. While I am certainly a rather neurotic person, I don’t have panic attacks or anything like that. She gave me an anxiety scale quiz thingy to do. Then she told me to go to Anxiety BC because they had a lot of useful self-help info for people with anxiety problems.
It turns out that I worry too much.
Now, anyone who knows me but at all will say something along the lines of “No shit, Sherlock.” I have been a worry wart since I was a kid. (Which, it turns out, is actually a symptom.) I know I worry too much. What I didn’t know was that I actually fitted into DSM IV criteria. All you need to do to qualify as having GAD is:
- worry a lot
- worry uncontrollably (people can control their worrying? How? It’s like controlling your reflexes or the weather, isn’t it?)
- Also have three of the following: restlessness (nope), being easily fatigued (yep), muscle tension (yep), difficulty sleeping (YEP), difficulty concentrating or mind going blank (sometimes).
That’s it. You don’t need panic attacks, or crazy social phobias or the need to flick the light switch 14 times before you can leave the room or anything like that. You just need to be tense, and worried, and a little insomniac. Who isn’t?
Although apparently it often goes hand in hand with depression (yep), phobias (look, corpses are SCARY, ok?) and other anxiety problems.
It’s very weird finding your personality being described as a disorder. The Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) page should start with “Hello, Carol, I can read your mind!” In fact, it probably would, but it knows that that would worry me.
It calls me “allergic to uncertainty” or (more politically correctly) “uncertainty intolerant” and it describes in embarrassing detail some of the little personal quirks that I tend to try and keep quiet about most of the time. For example, it says :
GAD worry can also be described as “scenario building”. That is, worry is often an attempt to try to think about every possible scenario in the future, and then trying to plan for it.
Like, one time I was driving to a friend’s house and was mentally rehearsing greeting her newest housemate, a Chinese guy named Mike, who I had met the other day. If he came to the door I planned to say “hey, Mike, how are you? Is my friend home?”
This is a fairly normal introvert strategy, right? But then the Mike in my head said,
“…I’m not Mike.”
You see, my friend had a number of Asian housemates, most of whom I hadn’t met. What if the guy I greeted wasn’t Mike after all and I was too nervous to notice?
The imaginary Mike who wasn’t Mike then began to call me a racist and generally berate me in an abusive fashion.
“I suppose we all look the same to you!” he accused me in my head.
I became upset and began mentally rehearsing apologizing to the imaginary Not-Mike and try to explain that I was not racist, just bad with faces. It didn’t help that of course he looked just like Mike, because he was in my head. It all became very heated and uncomfortable. When I actually arrived at my friend’s house I decided it would be much better for me to just stay in the car and have my friend come out to me, so I could avoid the Angry Chinese Not-Mike confrontation that I felt would inevitably develop.
It turns out, that’s not so normal.