1 What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive and persistent worry or fear about everyday events and situations. They may worry about finances, health, work, or school.

Most people do worry about some of these situations once in a while, but the worry is unrealistic or out of proportion for people with GAD. They often live in a constant state of fear, to the extent that it starts affecting their day-to-day activities.

In many cases, GAD occurs with other anxiety or mental disorders. Medications and psychotherapy are effective in controlling symptoms of GAD.

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2 Symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by psychological and physical symptoms. Some common psychological symptoms are:

  • Excessive and persistent worry or fear about things or situations. The worry is often out of proportion to the impact of the situation.
  • Uncontrollable worry
  • Restlessness and feeling at the edge
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Inability to make decisions as they are worried about taking wrong decisions
  • Being negative or feeling worried about negative endings
  • Indecisiveness

Physical symptoms of GAD are

In some cases, they may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason for worry. They complain that they have a general sense of an impending bad thing. The extent of worry may change from time to time.

Children with GAD may excessively worry about their performance at school or a specific event. Sometimes, they show excessive fear about natural disasters like earthquakes or war.

Some of them try hard to be a perfectionist, and repeat tasks to attain the perfection. They lack confidence and often feel that they do not fit in socially. Students with GAD needs a lot of reassurance about their performance.

3 Causes

As with many mental health conditions, the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder isn't fully understood.

Genetics and risk factors are considered to be involved in the development of this anxiety disorder. Major risk factors include family history, personality, and gender.

GAD is more common among females when compared to males. Family history of anxiety increases the chance of developing this condition.

Exposure to a stressful situation for a longer duration also influences the chance of getting GAD. Victims of childhood abuse have an increased risk of developing anxiety. A negative or timid personality has more chances of becoming an individual with GAD.

4 Making a Diagnosis

A review of medical history and symptoms help in the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Other tests are used to rule out chances of medical conditions that may have similar symptoms.

Psychological questionnaires are also useful in diagnosis. In many cases diagnosis is based on the criteria given in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provided by American Psychiatric Association.

The DSM criteria for GAD include

  • Out-of-proportion anxiety or fear that is present almost every day for more than six months
  • Difficulty in controlling worry or fear
  • At least three of the following physical symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension or sleep problems. In children at least one of the above-mentioned symptoms
  • Anxiety or worry that affects everyday activities
  • Anxiety that is not due to any other medical condition like post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse.

5 Treatment

Psychotherapy and medications are the two main treatment methods for controlling symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). For most people a combination of these two methods is more effective.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered to be a very effective talk therapy to change a person’s thoughts and behavior. It helps to identify and control anxious thoughts. Psychotherapy is used in combination with medications.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sedatives are commonly used in controlling symptoms of GAD. Serotonin reuptake inhibitor and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor medications are the antidepressants recommended in the treatment of GAD.

Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medications used in combination with antidepressants. Certain sedatives are also prescribed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, diazepam, and lorazepam are effective in reducing acute anxiety for a short-term.

6 Prevention

There are no ways to prevent generalized anxiety disorder as the actual cause of the condition is not known.

Identifying the trigger for anxiety often makes treatment easier and reduces the impact of symptoms.

Avoiding substance abuse is another way to prevent excessive anxiety.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for managing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

Herbal remedies are usually used alternative medicine in treating anxiety.

Herbal supplements of kava, valerian, passionflower, and theanine are used in controlling excessive worry.

Gelsemium sempervirens, argentum nitricum, sepia officinalis, lycopodium clavatum, and ignatia amara are prescribed in homeopathy for controlling specific symptoms of GAD.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, quitting substance abuse, relaxation techniques, good sleep, and healthy eating improves sleep and overall health of the patient.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

GAD may lead to other conditions like depression, substance abuse, insomnia, digestive problem, headaches, and heart problems.

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