The Story of Ameera: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This story is purely fictional and is not intended to represent a real family. Any similarities between this family and a real life family are purely coincidental.

Ameera is a 29 year old Bangladeshi girl who was born and raised in the United States. She grew up with her parents, immigrants from Bangladesh, her older sister and her younger brother. She also had two dogs as a child.

Her family was upper middle class and lived a comfortably sized home for their family. Her father was an entrepreneur and her mother a homemaker. Anisa is 2 years older and is the intellect of the family. She was in all honors and AP classes growing up and graduated top of her class from MIT with a degree in Engineering. Ameera’s brother, Taj, was 4 years younger and was the comic in the house, always making people laugh. While he was not as interested in academics as Anisa, he was very smart and graduated from UCLA with a degree in English. He aspires to be a high school English teacher and a drama coach.

Growing up, Ameera was a healthy child and reached all developmental milestones at the appropriate age. She was an excellent artist, loving to draw since she was a very young child. She also enjoys music and had learned to play the piano from the age of 7 until she moved to college.

She was known as the “time keeper” in her family. Even from an early age of 8 years old, she would be very concerned with punctuality. As everyone else dressed for a dinner party, she would poke her head into everyone’s room and remind them that they had to leave at 7pm. Of the three children, she would be dressed and ready to go to school the earliest every day. Her aunts and uncles as well as her family friends were amazed by Ameera’s maturity and responsibility, all asking their own children to be more like Ameera.

Ameera’s parent-teacher conferences were simple and easy for her parents to attend. The teachers loved how organized she was and how she inspired other students to try and be organized as well. The only thing every teacher mentioned at each conference since she was 6 years old was that she very often needed approval from them when a task was complete.

“Oh yes, that’s our Ameera,” would respond her mother. “She’s very humble but likes to know that she’s doing well.”

A few weeks before she began junior high, around the age of 13, her mother found her in the dining room with a table full of eraser shavings around her.

“What are you doing, Ameera?” her mother asked.

“I’m trying to draw a lion but his nose won’t come out right,” Ameera said, frustrated.

“You’re so meticulous! I’m sure you’ll get it,” her mother said with a smile as she walked away.

Ameera threw down the pencil and yelled, “I can’t do this!!” She began to sob uncontrollably. Her mother tried to console her without much avail. Ameera cried for 45 minutes repeating, “His nose just doesn’t look right!” until she exhausted herself and fell asleep.

Her mother attributed this to typical pre-teen hormones and braced herself for a few years of such tantrums until puberty had passed.

Through junior high and high school, Ameera’s parents noticed that she looked very stressed and worried. As soon as she returned home from school, she would immediately go into her room and begin her homework. Her mother would have to remind her to come out to eat a snack first and would even have to encourage her to take a break and play or ride her bike outside.

“Ameera’s too intense,” said Anisa, one evening during dinner. “Maybe that’s why your stomach hurts so much these days. And what’s the deal with your hands?”

Recently, Ameera had begun experiencing sweaty palms. Every couple of minutes she would wipe her hands on her jeans only to have them become sweaty again within seconds. Her mother attributed it to changing hormones causing her to sweat more. Ameera never told anyone about it, worrying that no one, including her sister, would want to hang out with her anymore.

One day, when Ameera was 17, the family was watching a movie, when they heard of a large earthquake in the area where Ameera’s cousins live. They called her cousins and learned that they were all safe and only had some broken household items. Since that day, Ameera became very worried about earthquakes, even though she and her family did not live in a place where earthquakes happened. She would often question her mother, “What if an earthquake hits here and we’re not prepared? I heard you are supposed to have an earthquake kit. Do we have one?” she would ask.

Ameera’s parents had started to become worried about her. While her insistence on punctuality was a cute trait to have as an 8 year old, her restlessless that increased when her family was running late had become excessive. She would pace the halls and become very agitated as the clock ticked past the time they were scheduled to leave. Since the age of 14, she had also experienced terrible stomach pains that no doctor could diagnose the cause of and her palms remained perpetually sweaty.

In college, Ameera’s stress level increased even more. She noticed that her heart would be pounding in her chest and sometimes all she could hear when she was trying to sleep was her heart and her racing thoughts. On good nights, she only got 5-6 hours of sleep. Otherwise her stomach aches or her recent development of upper back and shoulder aches would keep her awake.

She had begun working right after graduation, but had some trouble with her manager who complained that she needed too much reassurance of her performance and that she should learn to be more independent and confident.

Within the first couple of weeks at the job, she felt such intense stomach pain that she almost fainted. Her parents brought her home and ran multiple tests on her to identify the source of the pains and again found nothing. One doctor finally recommended that Ameera see a counselor as he suspected her symptoms were due to anxiety and not a physical ailment. Sure enough, after obtaining her history and charting the course of her symptoms, the counselor diagnosed her with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

At the age of 29, Ameera has been in treatment for several years. Many of her symptoms have significantly reduced: she rarely has sweaty palms and stomach, back and shoulder pains are almost gone. She is engaged to a successful businessman and is in the process of planning her wedding.

This is just one example of the presentation of symptoms of this anxiety disorder in South Asians. Please click here for more information about GAD and its numerous other symptoms.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing these symptoms, please see your physician or a counselor for a consultation.

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