Generalized Anxiety Disorder
ABOUT GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially when life is stressful. However, excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that interferes with day-to-day activities may be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Anxiety, I will transform you into something useful and productive. I will not bow down to you.
SYMPTOMS OF GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
- Excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities such as work or school performance
- Difficulty controlling the worry
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or irritable
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance including difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep
CAUSES OF GAD
You may have had a general time of major life stress or loss. This is including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through since early childhood. Changes in brain functioning also may play a role in developing disorders (the way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress). GAD has been associated with abnormal functioning of certain nerve cell pathways that connect particular brain regions involved in thinking and emotion. These nerve cell connections depend on chemicals called neurotransmitters that transmit information from one nerve cell to the next. If the pathways that connect particular brain regions do not run efficiently, problems related to mood or anxiety may result.
Biological and Genetic Factors
GAD may be somewhat more likely to occur when it is also present in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child). In other words, anxiety disorders tend to run in families; you’re more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your biological (blood) relatives have the mental health condition (inherited traits).
Environmental and Behavioral
The use of and withdrawal from addictive substances, including alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, can also worsen anxiety and during periods of stress.
HOW TO DEAL WITH GAD
Living with a generalized anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge. It’s possible to develop generalized anxiety disorder as a child or an adult. It most often begins in childhood or adolescence but can begin in adulthood. Treatment often includes a combination of the following options:
Because symptoms can be related to health problems, it’s important to be in regular/good contact with and be evaluated by a healthcare provider. If symptoms of anxiety are present, your doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose GAD, the doctor may use various tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms. If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a mental health professional, who is specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
Therapists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for GAD. Psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.
Several types of medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. The drugs most often used to treat GAD in the short-term (since they can be addictive, are sedating, and can interfere with memory and attention) are from a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. They work by decreasing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension and restlessness. Certain antidepressants are also used to treat GAD for longer periods of time. These antidepressants may take a few weeks to start working, but they’re safer and more appropriate for long-term treatment of GAD.
Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed. Keep therapy appointments. Consistency can make a big difference, especially when it comes to taking your medication. Don’t give up if treatment doesn’t work quickly/remind yourself it takes time. Facing your fears can be difficult, but treatment can help you feel like you’re not a hostage to your symptoms.
Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
Take care of yourself. Get enough rest/sleep, eat healthy, and try to be physically active/exercise every day. Avoid substances even caffeine, as it can make anxiety worse. Don’t forget to celebrate successes.
Break the cycle and by learning more about anxiety. This knowledge can help you understand what you’re feeling, and then you can develop coping strategies to help you respond effectively. Mindfulness strategies may be helpful in learning how to tolerate anxiety and reduce avoidance behaviors; Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga, may help cope with stress while reducing anxiety symptoms.
Reach out. Consider joining a support group to connect with others facing the same problems and who may understand you. Participate in activities by staying involved in work, social and family activities. Socialize (Don’t let worries isolate you from loved ones or enjoyable activities. Social interaction and caring relationships can lessen your worries).
Keep a journal and prioritize issues. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what’s causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
Let it go. Practice meditation. Don’t dwell on past concerns. Change what you can and let the rest take its course.
Take action. Work with your therapist on the underlying issues behind your anxiety.