Everyone worries about things like money, family and health. However, someone with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) becomes extremely worried about these and many other things. Generalized anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that consists of chronic nervousness, worrying and tension.
People with GAD worry even when there is little or no reason to be worrying. They are often highly anxious about simply getting through the day because they think something will happen to cause their day to go wrong. For someone with GAD, the worrying interferes with their daily activities.
What is the difference between “normal” Worrying and GAD?
Fear, doubt and worry are standard parts of life. It is natural to be anxious and nervous about an upcoming job interview or worry about the finances if you have an unexpected bill. The difference between generalized anxiety disorder and “normal” worrying is that for someone with GAD, worrying is:
For example. After watching a report on the news about a possible terrorist attack, the average person will typically feel a brief sense of uneasiness and worry. Whereas someone with a generalized anxiety disorder will be up all night worrying and continue worrying for several days about what could happen if their town experienced a terrorist attack.
Cause of GAD
General anxiety disorder comes on gradually and can occur during life; however, the highest risk is typically between childhood and middle age. In addition, women are twice as like to be affected by GAD. Although there is no known exact cause for GAD, evidence has shown that life experiences, family history and biological factors may play a part in the diagnosis.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
The primary sign of generalized anxiety disorder is excessive worry about various everyday problems for 6 months or longer. The symptoms of GAD fluctuate; they are better and worse at certain times during the day, or the worry is more intense for specific situations. Stress does not cause GAD; however, it can increase the symptoms.
It is important to note that not everyone has the same symptoms. Still, most people with GAD experience a combination of the following behavior, physical and emotional symptoms.
- Putting off things because of feeling overwhelmed
- Unable to enjoy quiet time or relax
- Avoiding situations that make cause anxiousness
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Body aches
- Muscle tightness
- Feeling edgy
- Difficulty swallowing
- Problems sleeping
- Trembling and twitching
- Feeling lightheaded
- Stomach problems
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
- Intrusive thoughts about a variety of things that make you anxious and cannot stop thinking about them
- Constant worries running through your head
- A continuous feeling of dread or apprehension
- Feeling as though the anxiety is uncontrollable
- Unable to tolerate uncertainty
Diagnosis of GAD
Many people with GAD will visit their physician several times before they are diagnosed with the disorder. The person may go to the doctor for help with problems sleeping, headaches or other symptoms of GAD, but they do not typically express all of their physical or emotional concerns all at once.
For this reason, the doctor will only treat the underlying symptoms or the physical symptoms as opposed to treating the disorder. Therefore, it is essential to be open and honest with your doctor about your fears, excessive worry, and the physical symptoms you may be experiencing.
Treatment of GAD
Fortunately, like the other anxiety disorders, general anxiety disorder is treatable. It is typically treated with medication and psychotherapy. Alternative treatments, such as relaxation techniques, yoga, mediation and exercise, are beneficial and may be included in the treatment plan.
Two types of medication are typically used to treat generalized anxiety disorder; anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications usually start to work right away; however, some are very addictive, so Who should not take them for long periods. Although antidepressants are used for treating depression, they are also beneficial in the treatment of GAD.
Antidepressants typically do not begin working until about 2 weeks to 1 month after you begin taking them. Therefore, it is essential to discuss all possible side effects of antidepressants with your doctor and let your doctor know about any other medications you are currently taking.
Cognitive behavior therapy, a form of psychotherapy, is quite beneficial for the treatment of GAD. Cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches the various individual ways of behaving, thinking and reacting to a situation to help them feel less anxious, fearful or worried.
Understanding the Worrying
To get the most benefit out of your treatment, whether medication, therapy, or both, it is essential to understand what worrying is. Although the worrying may be triggered by an outside factor, such as money or a disaster, anxiety comes from the inside. In other words, once you begin to worry, you are, in a sense talking yourself into being afraid or convincing yourself that adverse effects will happen.
The situation runs through your mind repeatedly, and each time you think about it, the “what ifs” worsen until you become anxious and fearful about what “might” happen. Once you learn the most effective way to stop focusing on the “what ifs”, you will be able to deal with the anxiety more effectively. Learning to deal with the anxiety includes learning to relax, calm down quickly and possibly making changes in your lifestyle.
When your body becomes anxious, it is experiencing a fight or flight reaction to a possible threat. During the flight or fight response, your body experiences physical changes, such as pounding heart, breathing faster, feeling lightheaded and muscles tensing up.
So, when relaxed, your body will experience the complete opposite; slower heart rate, slow, even breathing and relaxed muscles. Learning relaxing techniques is critical to overcoming anxiety when you have a generalized anxiety disorder. Some of the most common relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing-breathing deep from your diaphragm will help to reduce the faster breathing that comes with anxiety.
- Meditation is beneficial for reducing anxiety and giving you an overall calming feeling.
- Progressive muscle relaxation helps relax your muscles and prevent them from tensing up when you become anxious.
To obtain the optimum benefits of deep breathing, mediation and muscle relaxation, you have to practice regularly. Try to make time for at least 15 to 30 minutes each day. The more you do these techniques, the more your body will be able to relax, your nervous system will be less reactive, and you will reduce your vulnerability to stress and anxiety.
When you maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle, it can help reduce GAD symptoms. Taking care of yourself is essential, and committing to lifestyle changes will help reduce anxiety. Some of the ways to start living a well-balanced lifestyle include:
- Healthy eating habits-eating healthy meals, starting with a good breakfast, will give you energy, level out your blood sugar and help reduce irritability. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and drink plenty of water.
- Reduce your sugar and caffeine intake-caffeine and sugar can interfere with your sleep, and too much sugar can make you feel physically and emotionally drained. Try to cut back on drinking soda, coffee and tea to ensure you get the rest you need at night.
- Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Try to get about 30 minutes of exercise each day; whether it is going for a walk or doing aerobics, you will notice a relief in the tension and get a physical and mental boost.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol-it is common for someone with GAD to try to relieve their symptoms with drugs and alcohol, but it can lead to dependence. They do not have any benefit for relieving the symptoms of GAD; alcohol, nicotine and drugs will only increase the anxiety.
- Getting enough sleep when sleep-deprived reduces your ability to handle stress. Try to calm down and relax before bedtime by taking a warm bath and reading.
Generalized anxiety disorder can often be a debilitating disorder; however, when the anxiety levels are low, someone with GAD will be able to function socially. However, it is common for people with GAD to avoid certain situations to prevent anxiety. Unfortunately, when a situation is avoided to prevent the anxiety, the anxiety and worry increase due to missing the event. Therefore, the sooner treatment is sought, the quicker you will begin to learn how to control your anxiety.