General Anxiety Disorder- 200 shocking truths

People, who have generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, tend to worry nonstop about everyday occurrences and common situations of life. It is also sometimes known to be as chronic anxiety neurosis.

It is absolutely normal to worry about happenings in your life such as health, safety and money; occasionally. However, if you are worrying continuously without any reason; knowing that the conditions are all right and things are under control; then this is a sign of GAD.

Sometimes people experiencing this condition just worry, but they are unable to say what they are worried about. They are submitted to have feelings that something bad is going to happen to their loved ones or their finances are going to crash or they might behave strangely in a social situation etc.

It is something which they are worried about continuously. Efforts from their side to calm themselves down don’t seem to work with them.

This excessive, unrealistic worry can be upsetting.  There is so much distress in this disorder that it will start affecting your social, occupational, or academic life.

You can develop generalized anxiety disorder either as a child or an adult. Generalized anxiety disorder has symptoms that are similar to other mental health conditions like panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety, but they’re all different conditions.

Symptoms of GAD

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Sometimes, it does happen to everybody that they are worried about the day ahead, chores of daily life and the future events. However, if it is occurring with you regularly over the past six months, you might be suffering from GAD.

The symptoms of GAD can vary from person to person. Some of the common symptoms may include:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety over very small things which do not have such large impact on your life.
  • You are over thinking and preparing for the worst possible cases all times.
  • It is difficult for you to handle indecision, uncertainty and improbability.
  • You have developed an outlook of looking at things/situations as though they are dangerous, alarming and ought to harm you.
  • Inability to relax, restlessness or feeling of on an edge continuously
  • Difficulty in concentration or loss of concentration. Sometimes, your mind may even go blank.
  • Difficult for you to control worrying excessively.

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion: Though you have woken up with a good sleep; however you may still feel tiredness. The energy level is low and you may feel that weakness has taken over you.
  • Difficulty in falling asleep as you does not allow your body to relax. You may even be getting up many times.
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating prominently in palms
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal cramps
  • shaking
  • rapid heartbeat
  • neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in different parts of the body

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Symptoms in children and teenagers

Children and teenagers may have quite similar worries to adults, but also may have excessive worries about:

  • Their performance at school or sporting events or some social functions like family get together.
  • Family members’ safety
  • Being on time (punctuality) because of being punished for being late.
  • Earthquakes, nuclear war or other catastrophic events over which they have no control.

A child or teen with excessive worry may:

  • Feel overly anxious to fit in the desired scenario
  • Be a perfectionist and redo tasks because they aren’t perfect the first time
  • Lack confidence
  • Strive for approval from their seniors, parents and teachers.
  • Require a lot of reassurance and encouragement about their performance
  • Have frequent stomachaches, abdominal cramps or other physical complaints
  • Avoid going to school or avoid social situations for fear of being ridiculed or not performing upto the mark.

Causes of GAD

Like many other mental health conditions, GAD is likely to develop from a complex interaction of several biological and environmental factors. These factors may work singly or combined together.

  • Genetics / Inherited traits: Several studies have found that GAD tends to run in families. However, the research has been unable to prove that why some family members have it while others don’t.
  • If you have gone through traumatic or negative experiences in childhood like abuse or death of parents etc.
  • Recent or prolonged exposure to stressful situations in life which has taken a toll on your emotional health.
  • Differences in the way threats are perceived
  • excessive use of caffeine or tobacco, which can make existing anxiety worse

Risk factors

Studies have suggested that women are more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder than men. The following factors may increase the risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Personality: People whose disposition is timid or negative or who avoids anything dangerous are more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Genetics: Generalized anxiety disorder may run in families.
  • Experiences: People with generalized anxiety disorder may have a history of significant life changes, traumatic or negative experiences during childhood, or a recent traumatic or negative event like death of a loved one.  If you have other mental health conditions as well, it increases the risk.

How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?

To diagnose this condition, your healthcare professional will conduct a comprehensive examination and a mental health screening. As per his diagnosis and understanding, your healthcare professional may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or counselor.

Your doctor may also perform some medical tests to decide whether there is some underlying illness or any drug related issue which is causing your symptoms. Anxiety has been linked to:

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • thyroid disorders
  • heart disease
  • menopause

If your healthcare professional suspects that a medical condition or drug related issue are causing anxiety, they may ask for some further tests to be done to conclude on the diagnosis. These may include:

  • blood tests, to find out whether hormone levels have gone haywire because of thyroid disorder
  • urine tests, to check for substance abuse
  • gastric reflux tests, such as an X-ray of your digestive system or an endoscopy procedure to look at your esophagus, to check for GERD

You may need several sessions with a therapist before receiving a diagnosis.

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How is generalized anxiety disorder treated?

In order to get this disorder treated, the first step is to seek a professional help. You need to talk to your doctor or health care professional about your symptoms.

Your healthcare professional might ask you a series of questions and check your health history to rule out any unrelated physical diseases which might be causing you these symptoms. As per his diagnosis and understanding, your healthcare professional may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or counselor.

The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made, usually by a mental health specialist. Various methods, techniques and medications which are helpful in treating/ preventing this disorder are given below for your understanding and reference:

  • Psychotherapy

A type of psychotherapy (sometimes called as talk therapy) known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful for treating GAD.

Your therapist will try to give you an understanding of how this disorder is affecting your life and give a perspective of how it can be made better by reducing your anxiety level. Your therapist will try to understand the severity of your symptoms and work out ways to reduce them.

Your therapist will try to change the way you think and your response and behaviors towards situations- both wanted and unwanted. In therapy sessions, you will learn how to recognize and control your anxious thoughts.

Your therapist will also teach you how to calm yourself when upsetting thoughts arise.

CBT is a long term strategy to overcome this disorder.

  • Anti anxiety Medication and anti deressants

Anti-anxiety medications are really helpful and they start working right away in lessening your anxiety and fear level.  However, since these medications are powerful; they are generally not advised for a longer period of time. They are once started so that you can meanwhile look for other methods of treatment.

Patients have reported to develop tolerance towards this drug and the same dose might not work for them. In order to get the same effect of less anxiety; they have been given higher and higher doses of this medicine.

Some people may even become dependent on them. In order to avoid these situations, generally healthcare professionals advise these anti-anxiety medications for short periods and look for long term solutions.

Though antidepressants are mainly used to treat depression, but they have also proved to be helpful for reducing the symptoms of GAD. These medications do not start working right away and may take several weeks to show their effect.

There are also some side effects of this medicine like headaches, nausea, or troublesome sleeping. If you have started on low dosage of this medicine, the chance of getting these side effects is low and they may not be severe also. You may gradually increase the dose.

Incase if some side effects are intolerable, you should inform your doctor about the same.

  • Lifestyle changes

There are certain home remedies as well as lifestyle related things which will help you in easing the symptoms of GAD. These are self help strategies and often will help you in reducing the stress level in your body.

  • Maintaining a positive attitude towards life and in general. Try to warden off negative thoughts from your life.
  • Know what the stressors in your life are. Try to manage or reduce these stressors.
  • You should try to limit alcohol and caffeine intake in your body.
  • Try to eat wholesome and balanced meals every day. Having anti oxidants in your meals will help manage free radicals.
  • Try to sleep continuously at a stretch for 8 hours in night. Having a good sleep relaxes your body and prepare your body for the coming day.
  • Exercise every day
  • Try to keep your mind busy. At the same time, take out some time to do activities which you enjoy. This cheers both the body and the mind.
  • You may practice meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, spouse, or family member about your fears and worries.
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Prevention

It cannot be predicted what will cause someone to develop GAD. However, you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you experience anxiety:

  • Get help early. The sooner the better. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude towards life and in general. Try to warden off negative thoughts from your life.
  • Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can really help you and your mental health professional to identify what’s causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better. Know what the stressors in your life are. Try to manage or reduce these stressors.
  • Try to keep your mind busy. At the same time, take out some time to do activities which you enjoy. This cheers both the body and the mind.
  • Avoid unhealthy substance use. You should try to limit alcohol and caffeine intake in your body. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. You may seek professional help in quitting or reducing their intake.
  • Try to sleep continuously at a stretch for 8 hours in night. Having a good sleep relaxes your body and prepares your body for the coming day.
  • Exercise every day.