You mentioned that you are seeing a therapist next week. I’m wondering if you had seen a therapist previously since you have identified yourself as having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I highlight this only because it’s ill-advised to self-diagnose. Your therapist would be in the best position to give a proper diagnosis.
You described an experience where you had crippling anxiety coupled with “super bad tremors.” These “super bad tremors” were so bad that they kept you from returning to work. It’s possible that you are describing a panic attack, something that I will describe more in depth below. But it’s also possible that you are describing a medical condition. It would be prudent to consult your primary care physician. They will rule out any possible medical conditions.
Regarding panic attacks, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), the guidebook used by mental health professionals to diagnose disorders, provides this definition. They define a panic attack as an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. Individuals who have recurrent panic attacks may be diagnosed with panic disorder.
GAD, on the other hand, involves excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least six months about a number of different events and activities. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worrisome thoughts. In addition, they experience a number of other symptoms including but not limited to sleep disturbances, irritability, restlessness, and so forth. The anxiety common among GAD sufferers interferes with daily life activities and causes a significant level of distress. Having a panic attack is not a symptom of GAD. GAD and panic disorder are two different disorders.
It’s also not uncommon for people prone to anxiety to worry that they are developing schizophrenia. In fact, it is one of the most common concerns that I see here at Psych Central. It’s probably due to the fact that people with anxiety disorders tend to worry about developing all sorts of ailments. Schizophrenia, in the minds of some people, is considered a very frightening disorder. Thus, it makes sense individuals with anxiety would be drawn to what they consider to be the worst possible scenario. None of the symptoms you described in your letter would suggest schizophrenia.
I provided the aforementioned information to provide some insight into what clinicians consider when diagnosing mental health disorders. Gaining the proper diagnosis is important however, what might be most important, is treatment. The fact that you will be seeing a therapist is great news. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable conditions. Many people find therapy, and, in some cases medication, to be quite effective in treating their anxiety symptoms.
You are on the right track. You recognize the problem exists and you’re seeking treatment. You are doing what you should be doing. I wish you luck with your efforts. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle