What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) afflicts both adults and children. It is a condition that can interfere with daily functioning, depending on the severity of the anxiety that is being experienced. When a person has GAD, he or she worries and feels fearful over situations that should not warrant the anxious response. Worries may be irrational but cannot be controlled, and anxiety frequently becomes excessive. When this occurs, day-to-day activities will be hampered, as extreme worry inhibits spontaneous choices. The GAD sufferer will feel anxious over any number of things, including; health issues, work issues, death, problems regarding family and friends, and money concerns.
With generalized anxiety disorder, a person can be nervous and fearful without having a specific cause for these emotions. The feelings are diffuse and can affect how a person looks at life each day. Even when a specific worry may be legitimate, it will be felt on an extreme level that can actually be debilitating. A GAD sufferer may be constantly worried about something bad happening and may fear that evil is lurking around every corner. A feeling of dread seems to permeate many daily life occurrences and can reach the point where a person may be helpless to perform normal activities.
Everyone has worries, and it is not unusual to occasionally be concerned over different aspects of life. If worry becomes excessive, and does not go away, it persists to the point where it pervades daily living and interferes with day-to-day activities, then GAD may well be the problem. In fact, if this type of worry and anxiety lasts for a period of more than six months, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is usually the diagnosis.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Individuals who are afflicted with GAD will experience their own unique set of symptoms in varying degrees of intensity. Some days may be better than others, but the anxiety never goes away completely. There are three categories of symptoms that may be present in different combinations.
A person with generalized anxiety will have trouble concentrating and will not be able to stay focused on one subject. He or she will have an inability to relax and to spend quality time alone or with others. There may be a tendency to avoid anything that is the least bit upsetting or worrisome. Behavioral symptoms can also cause procrastination, where a person will keep putting off things that need to be done because it is too overwhelming to make an attempt to accomplish them.
Emotions can be very controlling. “Mind over matter” is not always easy to do for an anxious person. On an emotional level, a person with GAD will have thoughts that keep running through his or her mind over and over again, and the more disturbing the thoughts are, the greater will be the anxiety that is created by them. If the individual tries not to think these thoughts, to push them aside, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to do so. Thoughts will become intrusive, adding to the anxiety state. The person with GAD will also feel as though nothing can be done to stop the worrying, that it is out of that individual’s control. There may also be a fear of uncertainty, of not knowing what is going to happen in the future but needing to know in order to find peace. Feelings of dread will often pervade daily activities.
The behavioral and emotional symptoms of anxiety create a great deal of physical tension, and physical symptoms may accompany this state of being. There may be tension in the muscles of the body, creating aches and pains. Stomach problems may arise, including cramps, diarrhea and nausea. An individual with generalized anxiety disorder may feel on edge and irritable. He or she may startle easily. Restlessness is often a physical symptom. Also, there will often be trouble sleeping, as the mind never seems to shut off. There may be urges to use the bathroom frequently. In addition, sweating, trembling and headaches can occur as part of the physical symptoms of GAD.
What Causes GAD?
The causes of generalized anxiety disorder are not completely understood. There may be certain factors, or a combination of factors, that play a part in the development of this disorder. Possible causes are listed below.
There is a possibility that genetics may have play a role in GAD, as the disorder may actually be passed from one family member to another. If someone in the family is afflicted with generalized anxiety disorder, there may be a greater tendency for another family member to also develop the condition.
The amount of stress that a person experiences in life may play a part in the development of the disorder. Various life situations may generate a great amount of anxiety that cannot always be handled effectively. Certain individuals who are highly sensitive to life’s trials and tribulations may have a more difficult time in dealing with normal stressors. These individuals may be predisposed to developing anxiety disorders. Those who can handle life’s ups and downs more easily with not be as deeply affected by stress and anxiety.
Certain physical conditions can also contribute to anxiety, such as acid reflux, issues with the thyroid, heart problems and menopause. If a physical problem exists that can provoke anxiety in an individual, and this condition is coupled with other contributing factors, it is easy to see how anxiety can get out of hand and become a debilitating condition.
Various Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder
How can GAD be treated? There are various options that can be used to help individuals cope with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
This type of treatment can be very helpful for a number of anxiety conditions. The person who has the disorder will learn to recognize the thought patterns that are responsible for causing anxiety. Often individuals with GAD will exhibit a pattern of relying on “automatic negative thoughts” which color their perceptions of life. With cognitive-behavioral therapy, individuals can be trained in ways to change the patterns of these thoughts and to look at life more realistically.
Relaxation and Meditation Techniques
Learning to relax and meditate will greatly reduce stress and anxiety, helping to bring inner peace to those who are suffering from various forms of tension and nervousness. Deep breathing techniques may be utilized as well.
There are a variety of medications that can be prescribed to help curb anxious feelings and reduce their effects on the body. These medications will calm nervousness and tension, assisting the sufferer in feeling relaxed and more in control of emotions that are being created by ongoing life events. Some of these medications will be used for short durations, as they may be addictive if used over a longer period of time.
If physical symptoms are a part of the problem with a person suffering from GAD, it should be determined if any of those symptoms are caused by a medical condition. If so, treating that condition can help to reduce overall anxiety.
Common Questions That GAD Sufferers May Have About The Disorder
There are certainly going to be questions that a person afflicted with Generalized Anxiety Disorder will have about the condition. Listed below are five of the more common questions:
Is GAD common?
Approximately four to five million United States residents may develop GAD at one time or another. Women seem to have a greater tendency to develop the condition than men.
Will a person taking medication for GAD experience side effects?
Physicians will keep a close eye on patients who are taking any form of medication for generalized anxiety disorder. GAD medications can be addictive, which is why they are prescribed for shorter periods of time. If a GAD sufferer is taking medication and begins to experience a symptom that was not experienced before, it is important to bring it to the physician’s attention. If prescription drugs are the cause, the dose may need to be changed, or another medication may be prescribed in its place.
How does a person know if they have GAD or are just suffering from normal anxiety?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder can take over a person’s life. When it occurs, it will be persistent, lasting for more than six months. Worry will be so intrusive as to interfere with normal daily activities, and the person who is suffering from GAD will feel overwhelmed by what is happening. If there is any doubt as to whether GAD is being experienced, a doctor can help to make the determination.
Is it possible to have GAD and other mental disorders?
An individual with GAD may also experience other mental conditions, such as panic attacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Depression. Sometimes the symptoms of GAD will overlap with the symptoms of other psychiatric syndromes.
What is the prognosis for people suffering with generalized anxiety disorder?
There are treatment options available that can greatly help individuals who have this condition. It is important to receive the treatment that is appropriate for the level of GAD that is being experienced. If this is done, treatment can be of great benefit and can assist sufferers in controlling worry and anxiety so that a more stable and normal life can be enjoyed.
How Bridges to Recovery Can Help GAD Sufferers
The stresses of everyday life can make it very difficult to handle GAD. In fact, it is these stresses that help to contribute to the condition. It can also be difficult for GAD sufferers to respond favorably to treatment for the disorder when daily trials are always crowding in, possibly hindering whatever progress might be made. For this reason, treatment that is provided at Bridges to Recovery can be more beneficial than other forms of treatment GAD sufferers may receive. Bridges to Recovery offers residential care. The client will stay on the premises throughout his or her recovery period in a nurturing environment that will be very conducive to beneficial healing.
Bridges to Recovery is staffed with highly trained professionals who can diagnose and treat many types of anxiety conditions. The holistic approach is very effective in helping GAD sufferers to control their worries and anxieties. Psychotherapy is used, allowing patients to talk about their emotions and what they are going through. They will be able to share their feelings with others who are trying to work through the same types of issues.
Different forms of treatment are often utilized in conjunction with psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, nutrition counseling, massage and exercise. Creative forms of treatment, such as music and art, may also be used. If other mental disorders coexist with GAD, the appropriate treatments will be chosen to help bring healing to all conditions.
Bridges to Recovery has three locations in California to assist sufferers of mental disorders. Individualized therapy can be provided that will be unique to the specific needs of each client. Group therapy will provide an opportunity to give and receive valuable feedback.
When treatment has been successfully completed, the client will return to his or her home and lifestyle, feeling better able to handle everyday stress. Negative thinking and irrational fears will not be the problem they once were. If anxiety does present itself again, the client will have the knowledge and means by which to control the feelings that were debilitating at one time. Bridges to Recovery can provide hope and healing to those who need it most.