What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) cannot stop themselves from worrying constantly about common situations. They worry about things like work, health, family, and money, but can literally worry about anything. While most people feel anxious at times, people with GAD feel overwhelmed by their anxiety. Living with constant worry becomes a distraction to the point where you cannot live a normal life because of your thoughts and feelings. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of anxiety can vary widely among people with GAD. You may exhibit some or many of the following symptoms:
- An inability to stop worrying
- An overwhelming sense of dread
- Feeling on-edge or jittery
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Indecisiveness or confusion
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tired during the day
- Shaking or trembling
- Muscle soreness or tension
- Digestive problems, including nausea and irritable bowels
- Excessive sweating
- An accelerated heart rate
Diagnosing Generalized Anxiety Disorders
While talking about symptoms can help people understand what they may be experiencing, it is important to note that only a trained mental health professional can diagnose GAD. To be diagnosed with GAD someone will have displayed symptoms for about six months and have anxiety more days than not during that time. The six-month timeline exists to ensure that people do not receive anxiety diagnoses when what they are experiencing are acute problems or other mental health conditions.
What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Like other mental health disorders, GAD can have several different causes. GAD can develop when you reach a point of not being able to cope with the stress in your life. It can be related to other medical or mental health issues you are having, as well as chronic illness or medicines you are taking.
Lifestyle and Environmental Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Chronically stressful situations in a person’s life can cause them to develop GAD. Some examples of lifestyle and environmental factors that can contribute to the development of GAD include:
- A high-stress job
- Troubled or abusive relationships
- Financial problems
- Too little sleep
- Too many responsibilities
- Unstable home life
Someone may have several or none of these factors and develop GAD.
Biological Reasons for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
There is often no apparent reason why someone develops GAD. They may feel like their lives are generally in order and wonder why they worry so much. The lack of an exact trigger does not exclude a person from having GAD. Sometimes, a chemical imbalance is the cause of GAD.
People with biological reasons for their GAD may be more likely to develop symptoms during adolescence. They may also feel some level of worry throughout their lives, which worsens when an environmental trigger occurs. Some research suggests that GAD can run in families. However, scientists have not found specific genes that may be responsible for this. The jury is still out on the genetic risk factors for anxiety disorders in general.
Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists can treat GAD in several ways. A patient may need therapy, medication, or a combination of both to start feeling better. Psychotherapy treatments for GAD include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, patients learn to respond to triggers differently to reduce anxiety levels. Mental health professionals give patients specific tools designed to guide them through stressful situations.
Doctors, including psychiatrists, can use three different types of medications to treat GAD:
Antidepressants include several sub-categories as well. Each of these medication classifications works on various chemicals and mechanisms in the brain.
Telehealth Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
In many cases, people with generalized anxiety disorder can be diagnosed and treated through virtual appointments, known as telehealth. Online therapy and psychiatry options allow patients to fit anxiety treatment into their schedules. Studies have shown that mental health care can be just as effective through online appointments as in-person visits. Our telehealth appointments are HIPAA-compliant and safe as well.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorders are not uncommon, below are some statistics for Adult U.S. Population:
- Specific Phobia: 8% – 12%
- Social Anxiety Disorder: 7%
- Panic Disorder (also known as Panic Attacks) : 2% – 3%
- Agoraphobia: 1% – 2.9% in Adolescents and Adults
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 2%
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: 0.9% – 1.9%
Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.
When a panic attack happens, it happens quickly. These are acute events, meaning they do not last long as anxiety in GAD does. A panic attack involves powerful physical symptoms as well, including increased heart rate, excessive perspiration, and labored breathing. Panic attacks can happen in someone with GAD, but they can also occur in individuals with no other anxiety issue.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
In OCD, the patient’s anxiety causes them to fixate on things others hardly ever think about. It is characterized by obsessive thinking, ritual behavior, and fears that something bad will happen if certain tasks are not executed. Patients with OCD can fixate on anything, from germs to how they leave their home each day.
Agoraphobia is not a fear of being outside, as many think, but rather a fear of getting stuck in a situation in which you have no control.
Patients with agoraphobia often obsessively avoid the situations that triggers them. This can be anything from waiting in a crowded line to taking public transportation. If patients try to confront these triggers, they can have panic attacks.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by an intense or prolonged fear of being away from someone. While the condition is often associated with children, it can occur in people of all ages.
Seeking Help for Your Feelings of Anxiety
The first step for getting your anxiety under control is getting a diagnosis. You cannot begin to get relief until you understand what is causing your anxiety. That is why we recommend getting in touch with a mental health professional as soon as possible. GAD is treatable, and relief is possible.
Everyone worries, but when you worry constantly and that worry brings up anxiety that feels overwhelming, that’s a good indicator that you may be dealing with more than just a normal amount of anxiety.
Yes, it can. GAD can show up in physical ways such as weakness or dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and heart palpitations. It is important to see a medical doctor to make sure that these symptoms are not the result of any underlying medical conditions.
Generally, GAD does not go away without treatment. Psychotherapy, coping skills and medication have been found to be the most effective treatment for GAD.
GAD cannot be detected through a medical screening. Instead, it is diagnosed based on information gathered during a clinical interview.
Any treatment plan can have risks for pregnant women, so it is best to always consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of physical or mental health routine.