Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms and Treatments

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Some anxiety and worry is normal. These normal amounts of anxiety can actually help you respond to threats and feel motivated to get things done. However, excessive worry and anxiety may indicate an illness known as generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a prolonged and exaggerated worry that has few or no specific sources. Individuals suffering from GAD often describe feeling constantly worried, anxious, nervous, and uneasy.
In order to be diagnosed, these feelings must be persistently present for a period of six months or longer.

Who is Affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 6.8 millions American adults suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. More than twice as many women than men suffer from the disorder. While the disorder can occur at any time throughout the lifespan, it most often arises sometime between childhood and middle age. GAD frequently occurs alongside another problem including other anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression.

There is some evidence that genetics play a role in the development of GAD. Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, dealing with a serious illness, and stress can play a role in causing GAD.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Excessive worry with no specific source
  • Exaggerated startle reflex
  • Inability to sleep due to worrying
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Lightheadedness
  • Breathlessness
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating

Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Cognitive-behavior therapy is often an effective treatment. This therapy focuses on changing disruptive thinking and behavior patterns. The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to restructure distorted thoughts and help the individual change their reactions to stress.
  • Learning new coping skills and relaxation techniques is often beneficial.
  • Medications including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are often used in combination with therapy.
  • Co-occurring disorders must also be treated using the appropriate therapies, treatments, or medications.

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