Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD as it’s better known as, is a common disorder that is characterized by chronic tension, nervousness, and worrying. Unlike phobias where your fears are attributed to a specific trigger, generalized anxiety disorder is more diffused. In simpler terms, GAD gives you a general feeling of unease or dread about everything in your life.
The kind of anxiety you’ll get with GAD is way less intense than a full-on panic attack but it will last longer. This is what makes living a normal life difficult and as for relaxing … well that’s next to impossible! Whilst everyone of us will naturally be concerned about the same things from time to time, like family, work, health, and money, those with GAD will take these everyday worries to a new level.
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Differentiating Normal Worry & Generalized Anxiety Disorder Or GAD
Everyone worries and this is completely normal with most individuals feeling anxious and nervous on certain occasions in their lives. This may be because they have to attend an interview, face a problem at work or home, or take an important decision. The difference between normal worry and GAD is that the latter will have you experience worry that is excessive, intrusive, persistent, and debilitating. For instance, after watching the evening news and hearing about terrorist threats, an ordinary worrier will feel unease temporarily. Those with GAD will probably be up all night and will continue to worry about terrorist threats for days, running worst-case scenarios in his head.
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is a pattern of worry and anxiety relating to many events in the life of the individual. It interferes with his/her ability to function normally and relax as everybody else does but it’s more common than you’d probably think – it’s actually estimated that around 7 million adults in the United States experience generalized anxiety disorder.
GAD – The Causes
Everyone’s different and, as you’d expect, there’s no one single cause. Research points to the fact that GAD may run in families, that is, you have a greater chance of developing GAD if one of your family members are known to have the disorder. GAD is known to have been induced as a response to stresses experienced in life. Traumatic events in childhood such as abuse or death of a parent may make an individual vulnerable and prone to developing anxiety.
Anxiety disorders, in many cases are known to have been introduced through alcohol abuse or dependence on certain drugs such as benzodiazepine. Tobacco smoking is an established risk factor for developing GAD and caffeine is known to aggravate anxiety. There is also research that points out to a neurobiological cause of anxiety. Functional disruptions and connections in the amygdala (the part of the brain which controls emotions) are seen cause a difference in the manner in which anxiety and fear is processed in the brain which may lead to anxiety related disorders. GAD can occur for anyone, even children. Women are more often seen to develop GAD than men.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Individuals suffering from GAD may display or experience some or all of the symptoms described below.
Chronic and persistent worry for over six months establishes the presence of GAD. An afflicted person feels that his/her anxiety has been prevalent for years. They also have feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. Other people’s actions may be perceived as intimidating or critical. A child who has GAD may be extra anxious about tests in schools as well as health of family members, have the fear of making mistakes, have the feeling that they are to blame for any mistake that happens, etc., among many other anxieties. An adult with GAD has a mind that is never free of worries; there is always one worry floating over another. Even though the individual may realize that the feelings of anxiety are out of proportion to the situations or perceived dangers, he/she will still not be able to control the response.
An affected person is unable to tolerate uncertainty, will procrastinate important jobs because the person feels frequently overwhelmed, will avoid situations that he/she feels will bring on anxiety, and will be unable to relax and spend time by oneself. These are some of the behavioral symptoms. They always have repeated thoughts of traumatic experiences.
Physical symptoms include fatigue, restlessness, getting startled easily, irritability, insomnia, restless sleep, lack of concentration and muscle tightness. Other GAD symptoms include nausea, dryness of the mouth, headaches, involuntary shaking, digestive problems, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, frequent occurrence of nightmares, palpitations, etc.
Symptoms associated with GAD vary and fluctuate. Sometimes they are better at certain times of the day, and sometimes you might feel like you only have bad days in a
Dealing With Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The diagnosis of GAD is made after conducting a mental health exam and a physical exam. Tests are conducted to rule out other conditions which can cause similar symptoms.
If an individual is diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, the most effective treatment is usually medications in conjunction with psychotherapy. The aim of the treatment is to help the individual to function well in day-to-day life. Research has indicated that using both the methods of treatment has a lasting effect than using one method alone. In case the individual has other co-existing medical conditions, it is likely that the doctor will prescribe medications for those as well. The most common class of medications that are used to treat anxiety are antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Paxil, and the older class of tricyclic antidepressants such as Tofranil and Aventyl. These are slow to act. Benzodiazepines that are prescribed include Valium and Xanax. They are fast acting. They are prescribed during the initial stages for quick relief. However, it has to be administered under medical supervision as the patient can develop a dependence on these drugs.
Many psychotherapy techniques are seen to be useful in the treatment of GAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the individual to recognize unreasonable thought processes and modify his/her behavior accordingly. Exposure and desensitization helps one to overcome specific fears. Applied relaxation techniques help the individual to gain more control over the physical symptoms that occur during moments of extreme anxiety. Breathing exercises, visualization, meditation and yoga are techniques that can help. Biofeedback is yet another technique that uses sensors attached to the skin to recognize and control changes due to anxiety on physiological parameters such as pulse, muscle tone, temperature, etc. Hypnosis is sometimes made use of to reveal the cause of the anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Self Help Treatments
Having GAD can be very frustrating but do not lose hope because it is not impossible to manage. There are some amazing self help treatments on the market today but we have one that we particularly recommend – follow the link below to read all about it and how it works: