You can best describe generalized anxiety disorder (sometimes referred to as GAD) as excessive worrying either about specific situations or just life in general. The worrying can happen every day and sometimes last all day long for many months. People suffering from this disorder find it very difficult to control the worry and can reach a period where it seems that it is taking over their entire life.
Usually there are common factors about the content of the worry; the most common subjects are work, money, heath and family. These may seem link things that we all worry about a little everyday but for a individual with GAD, it can seem to them like the glass is always half empty. As the disorder is mainly rooted around stress, common symptoms of other stress related disorders could be found such as irritability, muscle tension, restlessness, trouble sleeping and fatigue.
It is noted that individuals with generalized anxiety disorder have more physical illness and pain, this can also lead to decreased social, physical and role functioning. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, accelerated heart rate and dizziness seem to be less up-front in this disorder than other well known anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and similar stress disorders.
People with generalized anxiety disorder find it very difficult if not impossible to turn off the worry that occupies their life. A small argument with your partner in the morning could lead to the rest of the day thinking about how your marriage is going to end, all in all, a person with GAD will look at situations and experience anxiety a lot more intensely than the average healthy person. Most people with GAD will not avoid situations that they worry about like is common with other anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, instead, they will participate in the situation while feeling very anxious and filled with tension.
Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The symptoms concerning generalized anxiety disorder are mainly focused on excessive worrying and feelings of anxiety. While everyone is known to worry at some point in their life, even at some point every day, a person with generalized anxiety disorder will feel like the worrying is out of their control and they often see no sign of it getting any better.
- Some common psychological symptoms are restlessness, trouble sleeping and relaxing, unable to stop anxious thoughts, nervousness, a desire to escape, feeling on edge, confusion, apprehension, avoidance, fear that you are going to die, fear of going crazy and worrying about events that have not yet occurred or are unlikely to occur.
- Common physical symptoms related to generalized anxiety disorder are dizziness, headaches, teeth grinding, twitching, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, loss of energy, insomnia, fatigue, breath shortness, cold and clammy hands, heart palpitations, queasiness, muscle tension, and even chest pains.
Behavioral symptoms include being easy to startle, being irritable, having trouble concentrating, and mainly procrastination.
- It is highly unlikely that one would feel all of the symptoms mentioned above all at the same time, people with generalized anxiety disorder will usually have a mixture of a few of the symptoms that will fluctuate throughout the day and even change from week to week.
- Anxiety symptoms can easily be misinterpreted as other medical illnesses because of the number of symptoms involved. It is common for people to report a few trips to the doctor before they were diagnosed with anxiety, be aware of the physiological signs that can manifest through excessive worrying and if possible ask for a second opinion.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is known to make itself present gradually over a period of time, usually present and diagnosed in childhood although it can also begin during adulthood. It is more common for women than men to have generalized anxiety disorder and doctors have often reported that close relatives are also experiencing GAD symptoms. A doctor will usually diagnose a patient with generalized anxiety disorder if they report that they have been worrying excessively about everyday problems for over 6 months and have reached the point of the worry interfering with the running of their day to day life.
Causes Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The main causes of generalized anxiety disorder can be broken down into 5 main categories:
GAD is known to be present in some families, whether it is learned behavior from experiences growing up in the family or whether it is passed on genetically is unknown.
Most probably the main cause for people experiencing GAD symptoms, when stress builds up it can trigger anxiety.
People who have had medical conditions such as overactive thyroid glands can experience anxiety amongst its other symptoms.
It is thought that some personality types can fall traits to generalized anxiety disorder. A close relationship that is not built out of trust, a paranoid or violent relationship where you feel insecure can lead to trigger anxiety disorders.
There are also various drugs that are thought to be related to anxiety disorders. Common drugs such as caffeine, asthma pumps, and thyroid hormones can lead to trigger anxiety, especially the withdrawal symptoms one would experience should they interrupt their regular intake. One of the main culprits to triggering anxiety is giving up smoking cigarettes and the nicotine withdrawals experienced.
Therapeutic Treatment For Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Many people who experience the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can learn to overcome them without the need to take any kind of drugs, especially if they only experience a low level of anxiety. Behavioral therapy can play a big part in combating the symptoms of GAD as many of the common symptoms can arise from simple things such as bad planning and organization leading to higher stress levels.
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has proven to be very effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder. By using CBT the patient and the therapist are able to examine the way the world is perceived by the patient and make adjustments where necessary. Usually negative thoughts will be thought when there is no need, using CBT the therapist is able to alter those negative thoughts before they manifest into physical difficulties.
Using CBT the patient can learn the behavioral, physical, and cognitive processes that trigger anxiety. Normal worrying in acknowledged, with cognitive behavioral therapy the patient will learn how to test their worry to distinguish between worry that can be helpful and unhelpful worrying that is harmful to your health. By learning to confront your worry as opposed to letting it build-up, you will be able to effectively calm your worry until it is diagnosed as normal.
Relaxation is important for relieving stress. It is a simple and important skill that focuses on deep rhythmic breathing and can be taught and learned alone or with the use of modern biofeedback equipment. The use of biofeedback equipment is so the patient can monitor their own body’s feedback to the therapy either by vision or sound, this can be advantageous but is not essential to learning relaxation techniques.
Other skills that are effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder are problem-solving and time management skills, while often overlooked these simple skills can go a long way in learning to calm your mind and not let every day worrying get the better of you.