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Everything You Need to Know About Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is categorized by excess amounts of uncontrollable worry over everyday activities that negatively interferes with the sufferer’s life, occurring over a period of at least 6 months. GAD affects 3.1% of the adult population in the United States, with 32.3% of those cases being classified as “severe”. Of the 6.8 million adults in the United States diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, less than half of those individuals are receiving treatment. Although living with GAD is difficult, there are many options available that have proven to effectively help sufferers cope and reclaim control of their lives.

Everything You Need to Know About Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience excessive, often unnecessary and unprovoked feelings of anxiety, worry, and doom. The stress experienced by sufferers can center around just about anything – health, money, school, work, or simply getting out of bed.

Much like other anxiety disorders, people with GAD have an incredibly hard time letting go of their fears or phobias on their own. Individuals may find themselves consumed by intense paranoia which can ultimately affect their sleeping and eating habits. Generalized Anxiety Disorder may also cause sufferers to experience trembling, hyperventilating, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, tightness in their chest, irritability, hot flashes, and in some cases fainting.

It is also not uncommon for GAD to be comorbid with other mood or anxiety disorders, such as depression, or substance abuse. In order to get the most out of therapy, it’s important to treat any other underlying conditions, as well.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Again, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is classified by seemingly unprecedented excessive feelings of intense anxiety exceeding a 6 month period. GAD will vary among sufferers, however general symptoms include:

  • Inability to control worries or fears.
  • Paranoia.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Excess fatigue.
  • Difficulty eating.
  • Intense pessimism.
  • Inability to relax or calm down.
  • High temperament or irritability.
  • Hyper-vigilance.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Low self-esteem or highly self-conscious.
  • Avoidant or anti-social behavior.
  • Headaches.
  • Body aches or muscle tension.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Shaking or twitching.
  • Sweating and hot flashes.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Feeling out of breath or hyperventilating.
  • Frequently having to use the restroom.

Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be traced back to a number of causes. GAD may be genetic in some individuals, while others may have developed GAD due to external factors, including trauma.

Through brain scans and other technology, researchers are learning more and more about the neurochemicals and neurological processes behind these intense emotional responses. Much of the studying revolves around the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure within the brain believed to be responsible for the processing and reacting to sensory input. It seems that memories stored within the amygdala are also responsible for triggering panic responses, resulting in different fears and phobias.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Scientists are constantly searching for new ways to help those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder get a hold of their symptoms. Currently, there are a number of medications and techniques that have proven time and time again to effectively help sufferers cope.

Before starting treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it’s important to ensure the symptoms are not the result of another disorder or ailment. It’s also important to rule out various other anxiety and mood disorders to guarantee the patient receives proper treatment.

As the symptoms and struggles of living with GAD will vary among individuals, the most effective treatment begins with finding the right therapist. A therapist should be patient, listen, and sensitive to the individual’s condition. A list of remarkable therapists devoted to helping their patients can be found here.

If you and your doctor believe medication is the best course of action for you, those diagnosed with GAD are often prescribed anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, and Beta-blockers.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Antidepressants

Newer antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which affect the neurochemical serotonin. These medications generally have fewer side effects, or at the very least have side effects that go away upon adjusting the dosage.

Antidepressants by the name of Tricyclics have been around longer than SSRIs, however, they tend to have more side effects, such as dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and weight gain. However, Tricyclics remain most effective at treating cases where GAD is comorbid with another disorder, such as depression.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Anti-Anxiety Medications

Benzodiazepines are fast-acting with very few side effects, however, the body begins to build a tolerance to this medication. For that reason, benzodiazepines are often only prescribed for short periods of time and not given to those with a past history of substance abuse due to the risk of becoming dependent. It is important to taper off of benzodiazepines when stopping the medication, as withdrawal symptoms may occur.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers may also be prescribed to keep symptoms of heart-racing and shaking under control. Although they are heart medications, taking a beta-blocker prior to a stressful event has proven to effectively alleviate symptoms of a panic attack.

Doses of these medications will vary among individuals. It is imperative to have strong communication with your doctor to ensure the medication is working with as little side effects as possible. It is also important to keep in mind that some of these medications may take a few weeks before patients are able to benefit.

Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Therapy

A number of therapies and non-pharmaceutical techniques exist and have also been shown as an effective part of managing GAD. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional to get to the root of coping with the anxiety. incorporates a combination of techniques used in many other traditional psychotherapies. Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an incredibly useful method in which the patient reprograms the way distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions.

Everything You Need to Know About Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Conclusion

GAD is classified by intense, excessive worrying negatively that negatively impacts an individual’s life for at least 6 months. Although Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects nearly 7 million adults in the United States, barely half are receiving the treatment they need and deserve. If you are suffering from symptoms of GAD, please contact any of the therapists listed here to reclaim control of your life immediately. For more information about Accelerated Resolution Therapy, please contact us.

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