About Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What Is GAD?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a psychological disorder marked by excessive, pervading worry. Among mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are some of the most common. Statistics estimate that up to forty million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. The disorder is more common in women than in men, though this might be caused by men not wanting to report and seek help for the problem. GAD has no one single cause, but happens as a result of individual neurochemsistry, temperament, life events, and genetics. 

Common Symptoms 

GAD has a number of notable symptoms including inability to relax, trouble dealing with indecisiveness, worrying out too much or to the point of obsession, problems with concentrating, pessimism, always being afraid of making the incorrect choice, and even worrying about how much you are worrying. You may frequently experience feelings of fear, panic, and frustration, as well as difficulty sleeping and being easily startled. Physical symptoms can include headaches, shaking, sweating, tense muscles or pain in muscles, nausea, and fatigue. 

Treatment: Therapy 

Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Talking about your worries with the assurance of confidentiality can be a big help. A psychotherapist can also help you understand yourself and your disorder, as well as analyze and address different life events and how they contributed or are currently contributing to your anxiety. One form of therapy useful for GAD treatment is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). It teaches you to recognize your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and how the three areas interact with each other. CBT teaches patients coping skills, such as countering negative, worried thoughts with positive possibilities and realistic facts. Breathing exercises can also be great coping mechanisms depending on the person.   

Treatment: Medication 

Sometimes, therapy alone isn't enough to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Depending on the patient, medication may prove crucial in controlling anxiety enough to return to normal life. Patients with GAD should see a psychiatrist in addition to their psychologist counselors and consult with him or her about whether medication is a good choice. Common medications for anxiety are benzodiazapenes such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Risperidone and Buspirone can also be used to treat anxiety and they are generally safer than benzodiazapenes. There are many other potential medicines for anxiety including Zoloft, Paxil, Ineral, and Effexor.

Note: Natural Anxiety vs. GAD 

It's important to note that GAD is definitely not the same thing as natural, passing anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives. However, an anxiety disorder is characterized by worry and fear that is so severe it interferes with daily life, and it keeps up over a long period of time, even when there is nothing to be anxious about. For more detail on this subject, you can read the criteria for GAD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fifth edition.