Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What is a Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder suffer from a severe, unrealistic, and persistent worry about everything going on in their lives. These individuals expect the worse outcomes even when there is no evidence to support such a negative view. Those with generalized anxiety disorder are also always on the lookout for disaster and are obsessively concerned with finances, health, work, family, and other things happening around them.

These individuals are consumed with worry and become anxious just thinking about how they will manage to get through a given day. This excessive worry interferes with a person’s ability to work, participate in social activities, attend school, and enjoy satisfying relationships.

What are the Symptoms of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

People who suffer from GAD tend to experience anxiety connected to excessive worries and preoccupations. These symptoms can be followed by irritability, muscle tension, restlessness, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, frequent urge to go to the bathroom, trembling, sweating, headaches, nausea, unrealistic view of problems, and becoming easily fatigued. The person usually becomes obsessed with big or small problems and is incapable of letting things go, relaxing and concentrating.

For these people, decision making often becomes a source of distress and concern and uncertainty is pathologically connected to stress and discomfort.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Causes

Like other mental and emotional disorders, there is no single, universal cause of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In each individual, there is often a complex and multifaceted process. There are many potential causes behind the disorder. The numerous causes may be situational and circumstantial, genetic, or environmental. Individuals with relatives who have anxiety tend to be more likely to develop anxiety themselves. This may be a result of inheritance; it may also be a learned behavior when a child learns anxiety from their parents or older relatives.

Exposure to extremely stressful situations – for example, the death of a loved one – can induce anxiety disorder. Traumatic experiences in childhood may also lead an adult to develop anxiety disorder. Additionally, excessive use of stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, can exacerbate and intensify anxiety in those predisposed to the disorder.

One’s inborn temperament and personality can also affect their likelihood to develop anxiety. Individuals who are prone to worry, cautious behavior, and negative thinking patterns are more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder.

Additionally, women are more likely to suffer from GAD than men.

How is a Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treated?

Medications such as benzodiazepines or sedative-hypnotics may be used to stop feelings of intense anxiety. The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Librium, Xanax, Ativan, and Valium and relieve feelings of anxiety by relaxing muscles and eliminating restlessness.

Certain antidepressants are also used to treat general anxiety disorder over a longer period of time and include such drugs as Paxil, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Prozac, and Effexor. Cognitive-behavioral-therapy is another form of treatment that seeks to help individuals recognize what behaviors and thoughts cause them anxiety in order to change these and avoid becoming overly anxious.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Prevention

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prevent generalized anxiety disorder; however, it is possible to decrease one’s likelihood of developing the disorder. Addressing any circumstantial vulnerabilities or signs of the disorder is the most effective way to prevent the development of generalized anxiety disorder. If an individual is exhibiting any signs of the disorder, it is important to meet with a licensed mental health professional as soon as possible in order to prevent any further development of the disorder. Avoiding substances which are stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, can greatly help to prevent spikes in anxiety in those that are predisposed to the disorder. Additionally, keeping track of one’s life – priorities, obligations, and even one’s daily emotional state – can greatly help in preventing anxiety in those who may be at greater risk of it.