The feeling of anxiousness and dread is something that everyone experience at some point in their life. It is a natural response of the human body under stressful situations. But, feeling anxious all the time and worrying excessively about everything can be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.
People will general anxiety disorder find their anxiety interfering with their day to day life. Public anxiety disorder has similar symptoms to panic disorder, OCD, and other kinds of anxiety disorders, but they are different to some extent.
Life with this disorder can be challenging, the symptoms can occur with other mood or anxiety disorders, and this condition can last for a long time. Usually, medications and psychotherapy can help improve the symptoms. Making changes in lifestyle are also useful in coping with signs of general anxiety disorder.
Who Gets GAD?
Anybody can experience get general anxiety disorder (GAD). It is an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness that can occur at stressful events and remains with a person even long after that stressful period. Adults and children alike can develop symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Though everyone has an equal chance of getting GAD, certain factors can increase the risk of developing GAD, these includes:
- Childhood abuse
- Exposure to stressful situations for prolonged periods
- Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco or caffeine which can worsen the existing symptoms of anxiety
- Family history of anxiety and other mental health problems
- Chronic illnesses can also contribute to the development of GAD
- Recently experiencing trauma can also increase the chances of developing a generalized anxiety disorder
Signs and Symptoms
People with generalized anxiety disorder might experience psychological and physical symptoms. The intensity of symptoms varies from person to person. Some might feel mild signs, while others can become unable to function properly because of them.
Psychological symptoms of GAD include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive worrying
- Inability to relax
- Feeling edgy or tense
Physical symptoms of GAD include:
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Aches and pains
- Muscle strain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cold, clammy hands
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
It is best to seek help from a medical professional before the symptoms can get worse.
A primary health care provider performs a meatal health screening to diagnose a generalized anxiety disorder. They will enquire about the symptoms and the duration for which you are experiencing them. If your healthcare provider decides, they might refer you to a mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist or psychologist to get the best treatment.
The doctor might also perform some medical tests to determine an underlying physical cause of anxiety. Some medical issues can amplify anxiety symptoms, including:
- Thyroid disorder
- Heart disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
If the doctor believes that these symptoms are a result of substance abuse, they can run a blood test, urine test, x-rays, and stress test to find the underlying problem.
Causes and Risk Factors
Just like many other mental health issues, there is no single cause of generalized anxiety disorder. A combination of various factors is responsible for the development of GAD in a person.
Following factors can play a significant role in the evolution of GAD symptoms:
- Genetics: People with a family history of psychological illnesses are more prone to getting anxiety symptoms. There is no discernable anxiety gene, but scientists agree that genetics are responsible for anxiety symptoms.
- Trauma: The more a person faces high-stress events such as violence or sexual abuse before the age of 21, the more likely they can experience anxiety symptoms later in life.
- Depression: When the feelings of sadness and disinterest linger for long and start affecting day-to-day life, consider visiting a doctor. These feelings of depression usually meant that you might also have some anxiety disorder.
- Prolonged stress exposure: People working in stressful environments, such as war zones, emergency shifts at hospitals, etc., can start to feel anxiety. Those who worry about financial issues, work, serious illness, distressed loved ones, are also at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
- Substance abuse: It is also a leading cause of getting anxiety. While using drugs and alcohol can give temporary relief from stress, prolonged use of these substances can lead to an anxiety disorder.
- Loneliness: being disconnected from the world can feel relaxing sometimes, but after a certain period, this loneliness can spiral into depression, which can induce or worsen the symptoms of anxiety.
A medical health professional can prescribe medications, therapy, or a combination of both to help you cope with anxiety symptoms.
When prescribing medications for anxiety, doctors usually have a short term plan and a long term plan. In the short-term, the main aim is to relax the physical symptoms of the condition, and long-term medications help address the psychological issues.
Short-term anti-anxiety medications include:
Antidepressants work well for long-term treatment of anxiety symptoms:
- Buspar (buspirone)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Prozac, Sarafem, Prozac Weekly (fluoxetine)
- Luvox, Luvox CR (Fluvoxamine)
- Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva (paroxetine)
- Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
- Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
Antidepressants usually take a few weeks before showing all their effects, but they do not have drawbacks, such as the addictive nature of the short-term anxiety meds.
The most common therapy for treating generalized anxiety disorder is Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In this procedure, a mental health specialist conducts talking sessions with the patient and helps them understand their situation’s underlying causes.
The main aim of these therapy sessions is to help the patient change their thinking and behavior patterns by exploring what makes them anxious and how to rationalize those triggers. Many patients experience long-lasting relief from anxiety symptoms after going through cognitive behavioral therapy.
Throughout this therapy, the mental health specialist will teach you how to control your anxious thoughts and excessive worries. They will also show you the ways to calm yourself down when faced with a stressful situation.