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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is described as a repeated unrealistic fear that is much more intense than what is considered normal daily anxiety.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a relatively common problem, affecting nearly 1 in 20 people. Typically people who experience generalized anxiety disorder will be awash in all the “what ifs” in life that can hold them back from experiencing the good things in life. For people with GAD it can feel like an endless cycle of worry and fear that only compounds itself by inaction which can cause more worry and fear. This anxiety and fear can lead to depression ultimately when people lose hope that their anxiety will ever be cured.

As opposed to a regular panic attack, generalized anxiety won’t necessarily cause people to skip out on their favorite things in life. In fact, people with GAD don’t typically suffer from regular panic attacks that can be so debilitating for so many people. GAD is more of an inability to “turn your mind off”. People will dwell on things to the point of losing touch with everything else that’s important. Sadly, there generally aren’t even any triggers for GAD. Most fears and negative thoughts caused by generalized anxiety are completely irrational in nature.

Regardless of whether or not the thoughts driving the anxiety are appropriate, the feelings become very real. GAD may even cause the lack of energy or zest for life, mimicking the symptoms of depression. The emotional fear from the anxiety can control your whole life. For example someone with generalized anxiety may feel like it’s the end of the world to be five minutes late for a meeting, even though in reality people are late all the time and it isn’t really a big deal.

Stress is a part of everyday life for everyone, no matter who you are or what you do. The stress felt by someone with GAD can be amplified and distorted, allowing them to feel extremely nervous about any situation. When someone with GAD goes to work and feels unsatisfied in their job, they may feel like their place of work is a negative environment they don’t want to be a part of anymore. What results is an irrational fear of returning to work which can cause a considerable amount of anxiety.

Everyday life can be too much to bear for someone with generalized anxiety disorder. They may feel completely out of control or dwell on things from the past constantly, never letting themselves relax completely. Any little thing has the potential to set them off at any given time. They may have good days and bad days or even have mood swings that only last a few minutes or a few hours.

Because the symptoms are mostly psychological, people have a hard time recognizing their own symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. All too often the feelings and thoughts that go along with GAD are internalized and become normal to the person suffering from the disorder. These anxious reactions become a go-to coping mechanism, even though they have so many negative consequences. Over time people may feel it’s easier to close-up or shut-down than deal with all of the fear and anxiety they feel in life.

It is possible to treat generalized anxiety disorder, which often includes identifying the root causes and changing thought patterns. A therapist that specializes in general anxiety disorder can help assist anyone suffering from anxiety by identifying the things that cause anxiety for a person and helping them find more appropriate coping mechanisms. It’s important to find a therapist with lots of experience treating GAD to have the best chance of overcoming this terrible affliction than affects so many.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

There are many different emotional, behavioral and physical generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. These symptoms may happen all at once, or in any combination at any time. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can change rapidly and be exhibited in different levels of severity at different times of the day. While stress isn’t the root cause of GAD symptoms, it can certainly exacerbate them. 

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can be different for everyone who experiences generalized anxiety and usually depend on the current levels of perceived stress. I say perceived stress, because generally people with GAD have irrational fears and anxiety over things other people would never worry about.

Emotional GAD symptoms can be the most debilitating of all. A person may worry constantly, finding it difficult to shake the negative fears. This can lead to a feeling of being out of control, like there’s no way possible to end the anxiety. These thoughts can be irrational or even altogether imaginary yet that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. It can be extremely difficult for someone with GAD symptoms to simply “turn off” the negative thoughts and feelings.

Behavioral GAD symptoms can include the inability to ever relax or enjoy a quiet moment. The constant fear and worry can make it very difficult to concentrate on anything outside of the anxiety and fear. Anxiety can lead to the avoidance of situations which make the person feel uncomfortable and can cause them to put things off due to feelings of being overwhelmed.

GAD symptoms can also be physical in nature. Feeling tense, which includes muscle tightness and body ache is the most common physical symptom. Generalized anxiety can also make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Other physical symptoms can include problems with digestion like nausea and diarrhea.

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms should never be overlooked. It’s important to consult with a therapist or psychiatrist if you feel you may have any generalized anxiety disorder symptoms that need to be addressed.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Causes

According to various sources, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is included into inherited psychological disorders; as a matter of fact, most psychological disorders run in the family. Therefore, someone whose parents, grandparents, or even uncle/aunt has once suffered from GAD have a big possibility to suffer from GAD. Though the biggest possibility is still the fact that GAD runs in families, yet, environment and lifestyle or stress  are also considered as factors that cause this disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis

If you believe you suffer from generalized anxiety it’s important to consult with a trained professional to get a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis. This diagnosis will typically include a series of questions pertaining to your medical history as well as a complete physical exam.

Unfortunately, you can’t just get a blood test to determine a GAD diagnosis. There are no specific tests a doctor can physically perform to determine whether or not you are currently suffering from generalized anxiety. Certain physical diseases can cause generalized anxiety disorder though, which means a doctor may be able to test for these conditions to determine the cause of your anxiety.

A doctor will generally base their GAD diagnosis based on the answers you give regarding the intensity of the symptoms you feel, the history of your symptoms and how often you feel them. This can include any problems that the symptoms have caused. Your doctor can then make a determination based on the symptoms as to whether or not GAD may be the cause of the symptoms you are feeling. The most important factor in this determination is whether or not symptoms have persisted on more days than not during the last 6 to 12 months.

If no physical symptoms are found during a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis you may be referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation. Mental health professionals are generally more adept to diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder than a general physician would be. Generalized anxiety disorder is most commonly treated using a combination of medications and therapy.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Generalized anxiety disorder treatment can help you get your life back if you suffer from anxiety. GAD treatment options include therapy, medication or a combination of both. Treatment can help ease your mind and relieve the constant stress that generalized anxiety disorder can cause.

Medications for generalized anxiety disorder may include drugs like Xanax and Prozac. These medications don’t do anything for the root cause of anxiety, but instead act as a tranquilizer leaving you worry free.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective for anxiety as it teaches you how to change your negative thought patterns which can help relieve anxiety permanently. Therapy can help a person identify how their anxiety affects them and what the cause of their anxiety really is.

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Anxiety can often be caused by not planning things properly, too much stress and a difficulty relaxing. A qualified therapist can help teach you coping techniques as well as help you get the relaxation you need to get your mind off all the negative thoughts associated with generalized anxiety.

Simple relaxation exercises like deep breathing are excellent options as therapy for anxiety. Biofeedback can also be used to help people see how the stress and anxiety is affecting them in real time. Muscle relaxation techniques as well as imagery can be used to help a patient learn to relax. Relaxation is the key to low anxiety levels, and as simple as it seems, people need to know how to physically relax, not just have an idea of what it might be like.

Continued practice of relaxation even outside of therapy is an extremely beneficial generalized anxiety disorder treatment. Planned daily meditation can give you a chance to make a point to relax regularly. Regular relaxation helps to retrain your worried mind to let things go.

    Read more here on → Relaxation Techniques

Medication becomes a generalized anxiety disorder treatment option when symptoms begin to interfere with a person’s everyday life. If you are no longer able to function in society, it may be time to get some more serious help. Even the best psychotherapy won’t be effective unless the patient is actually able to physically relax during treatment. Effective GAD treatment is all about learning to relax and go with the flow, whether that be a tranquil feeling you get from meditation or medication.

Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be uncomfortable, lonely, depressing and altogether unbearable at times. Generalized anxiety causes a number of irrational fears to cloud your judgment and can make everyday situations too much to take. If left untreated generalized anxiety can lead to depression and feelings of utter hopelessness as you try to control your fear and anxiety.

When you’re living with GAD, likely therapy is a part of your normal week. Therapy sessions help to reverse negative thought patterns and teach you relaxation and coping techniques you can use every day. It can be difficult for someone with generalized anxiety to get help. The stress of the situation is often more than they can take. It takes willingness and continuous effort to overcome anxiety and work on your problems regularly.

Living with generalized anxiety disorder is an on-going battle, much like alcoholism or any other addiction. It’s not as though you’re addicted to the anxiety or enjoy it, it’s more like it’s all you know. That’s why therapy plays such an important role. In therapy you can begin to identify and reverse negative thought patterns that have ruled your life.

It’s not uncommon to suffer a relapse when living with GAD. This can easily happen during stressful times. Treatment will help you to better understand if and when a stressful situation is going to be a problem. It also helps you to question your irrational thoughts and use more effective coping techniques for dealing with things that make you uncomfortable.

If you happen to be living with generalized anxiety disorder that’s made your life unmanageable, medication may also be a part of your daily routine. Medications can be used as a short-term treatment for anxiety allowing a patient to relax enough to be able to benefit from therapy. Ultimately, living with generalized anxiety disorder is all about controlling your negative impulses and learning to relax.


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