Are you feeling anxious about your normal day-to-day activities and happenings in your life? Are you confused whether this condition is common or happening only with you? Learn more about this condition, its signs, treatment, and ways to overcome it.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be defined as anxiety and worry about several events and activities for an extended period or days. The anxiety and worry of GAD differ from normal anxiety by its excessiveness, the difficulty of controlling it, and their interference in our routine daily life. The onset of GAD can be primary (without any apparent cause) or secondary to thyroid problems, drug abuse, or cardiovascular diseases.
Generalized anxiety disorder is much more common in women than in men. The age of onset is often difficult to calculate, as most patients typically report a history of excessive worry throughout their lives.
Generalized anxiety disorders are similar to other forms of mental illness. The specific cause of generalized anxiety disorder is still not known. But it is considered that a combination of the following factors can contribute to this condition.
Long-term exposure to stressful events.
Severe or long-term stress can change the chemical balance that controls the mood. Experiencing stress for a prolonged period can lead to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Genetics: Anxiety disorders can run in families.
Differences in brain chemistry and function.
Differences in the way how threats are perceived.
The major risk factors for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are:
Recent or extended exposure to stressful situations.
Prolonged use of tobacco or alcohol can worsen the existing anxiety disorder.
Family history of anxiety disorders.
Women are at an increased risk of developing anxiety disorder than men.
Physical complaints can be prominent, and patients could have symptoms of motor tension, tremors, palpitation, giddiness, fearfulness, weakness, and headaches. Patients with autonomic hyperactivity can have gastrointestinal, pulmonary, or cardiovascular complaints, whereas patients with cognitive vigilance are often irritable and easily frazzled.
Psychosocial symptoms include:
Difficulty handling uncertainty.
Fear of making wrong decisions.
Some of the physical signs of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include:
Nausea and vomiting.
Rapid heart rate.
Numbness in different parts of the body.
The course of GAD is variable. It is usually regarded as a chronic condition that worsens with life stressors like the occurrence of negative life events.
Approximately 50% to 90% of patients with a generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) have an associated mental disorder such as depressive disorder, panic disorder, and dysthymic disorder.
Research shows that the onset of GAD typically occurs before the onset of depression and that depression may result secondary to the chronic stress of GAD. The other mental health disorders associated with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are the following:
Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed by a physical examination and a mental health screening. During a physical examination, the doctor looks for the signs of anxiety. The doctor further questions you about your medical history to check if any underlying condition or certain medications are linked to the condition. If in case the doctor suspects an underlying medical condition or any substance abuse, then a few tests like blood tests, urine tests, gastric reflux tests, and stress tests may be recommended.
Even though generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common psychiatric illness, only one-third of patients actually seek treatment for it. Others seek help for somatic symptoms of this illness from various other physicians such as cardiologists, internists, and gastroenterologists. The treatment depends on how this anxiety disorder affects the ability to perform daily functions.
Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder includes:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one effective form of psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on educating the individual on how to manage the worries and fear and also helps to gradually return to normal activities.
Medications usually prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder are the following:
Some of the complications of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are:
It impairs the ability to perform day-to-day activities quickly and productively.
Hard to focus on something.
It increases the risk of depression.
Generalized anxiety disorder can worsen other physical conditions like:
Headaches and migraines.
Issues related to the heart.
There is no specific way to determine when and how generalized anxiety disorder will affect a person. But there are some ways you can follow to reduce the impact of the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Ask for help. There are so many helplines available to help you out with this condition.
Keep track of your daily routine activities to determine what is causing you stress. By keeping track, you can find ways to get yourself relieved of stress.
Try to manage your time and energy. This is one way you can reduce your anxiety level. Prioritize the issues in your life.
Avoid unhealthy practices like drug abuse, alcohol consumption, use of nicotine or caffeine, etc. If you are not able to stop the habit on your own, find a treatment program or support group to help you out with this habit.
Some lifestyle modifications that can help manage this condition better include:
Keep yourself physically active. Exercise is the best stress reliever.
Prioritize your sleep. Proper and adequate sleep can improve the condition by reducing stress.
Perform some relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, etc.
Eat a healthy diet.
Taking medications as directed and practicing the skills learned in psychotherapy can help to improve the condition. Consistency makes a big difference when managing this condition.
The generalized anxiety disorder, if left untreated, can interfere and disrupt the normal daily life activities of an individual, like driving a car, falling asleep, going to school or work, etc., and make it challenging to lead an everyday life. It can also cause relationship problems.
Though the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is not clear, it is believed that the following factors might be causing it.
- Genetic inheritance.
- Problems or imbalances in the chemicals (neurotransmitters) within the brain.
- Growing up as a timid or shy kid.
- Negative childhood experiences like family conflict, parents’ divorce, major illness, etc.
- Learning anxiety from the anxious behaviors of the family members or caregivers.
People with generalized anxiety disorder tend to worry several times a day and every day about day-to-day life happenings and are anxious to perform normal daily life activities. They are always in a state of tension, worry, and anxiety. They experience symptoms like,
- Mental and physical exhaustion.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Tiredness and weakness.
- Constantly worried.
- Have intrusive thoughts.
- Constant feeling of apprehension.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Avoiding situations that cause anxiety.
- Physical symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, sweating, rapid heartbeats, etc.
- Children with a similar family history.
- Substance abusers.
- People with an abusive childhood.
- People with negative life experiences like the death of their loved ones, familial conflict, chronic illness, divorce, etc.
Persistent or recurrent anxiety for a period of more than six months is recognized as a generalized anxiety disorder. There is no particular time period after which the GAD resolves on its own. Once a person develops GAD, it does not resolve on its own, and instead, it worsens over time if left untreated.
It is impossible to lead a normal life with GAD. Such people worry excessively even in the absence of trouble regarding finance, health, relationships, work, family, etc. This makes them unable to relax a bit or fall asleep. They experience headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, etc., on a daily basis.
Generalized anxiety disorders tend to get worse with time and age if left untreated. They develop during adolescence or young adulthood. It takes time for one to identify the condition as the symptoms are not apparent in the early phases.
Untreated GADs can be concerning as the physical impact of anxiety on one’s body can result in adverse health effects. Also, GAD is mostly accompanied by another mental health condition, which makes its diagnosis and treatment difficult, further worsening the condition.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a highly treatable condition with better treatment outcomes if identified and treated early. A combination of psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications can help treat GAD and lead a normal life.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy - Mental health professionals talk to you to change the way you perceive the world or look at worries. They help change your negative and intrusive thoughts and how you react to a situation that causes anxiety.
- Relaxation Techniques - Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation help overcome mental health disorders when performed consistently.
- Limit caffeine intake.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
- Get enough hours of sound sleep.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated either by psychotherapy or with medications. Sometimes a combination of both is recommended for better effects.
- Psychotherapy - It includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques. Trained mental health professionals teach you how to think and react to an anxiety-prone situation.
- Support Groups - Getting mingled with the support groups with similar people and talking to them helps identify, understand, and analyze the problem in-depth and rectify the same.
- Medications - Usually to treat GAD, anti-anxiety medicines (Benzodiazepines) like Alprazolam, Diazepam, etc., and antidepressants like Escitalopram, Paroxetine, etc., are used for a short period.
Last reviewed at:
30 Sep 2021 - 5 min read
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