Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects twice as many women as men. GAD affects approximately 6.8 million adults in the United States. The disorder develops over time and can begin at any point, including childhood.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of GAD can vary in severity. Patients can experience a combination of symptoms, which can include:
- obsessive or constant worry about small to large concerns
- trouble sleeping
- rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath
- difficulty concentrating
- trembling or being easily startled
- feeling on edge
- muscle aches and tension
People suffering from GAD cannot remember when the last felt at ease or were not consumed with worry. GAD is a chronic condition and symptoms may come and go on a daily basis.
Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People who are worrying so much that is has begun to interfere with work, home, and relationships should see a physician for proper diagnosis.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has certain criteria a person must meet to be diagnosed with GAD. The criteria for diagnosis is:
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry;
- Excessive anxiety and worry about multiple events or activities most days of the week, for at least a six month period;
- Anxiety that is unrelated to another mental health condition; and
- At least on of the following symptoms must be present in children and at least three in adults: sleep problems, irritability, muscle tension, restlessness, fatigue, or trouble concentrating.
Mental health care providers will conduct a thorough examination. Questions regarding symptoms and medical history will be discussed. Physicians may also perform a physical examination to check for medical conditions which may be related to the anxiety.
Treatment of GAD
Medications and psychotherapy are the two main treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. Combining these treatments could off the best benefit for some patients.
Several medications are used to treat GAD. These medications may be used alone or in combination of one another:
- Antidepressants, work to influence activity in the brain chemicals. Examples of medications include Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Tofranil, Effexor, or Zoloft.
- Benzodiazepines, used for short-term relief of anxiety. These medications are sedatives and can include Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, Librium, or Xanax.
- Buspirone (BuSpar), is an anti-anxiety medication used on an every day basis.
Psychotherapy is helpful for many patients. Psychotherapy uses counseling to work on the root causes of stress and making behavioral changes.
Considerations on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing generalized anxiety disorder. Factors can include:
- Being female
- Childhood abuse or trauma
- Chronic illness or serious health conditions
- Personality type
- Drug or alcohol abuse
GAD is a chronic condition. Treatment is available. Lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol, joining a support group, using relaxation techniques, getting proper amounts of sleep, and sticking to a treatment plan will assist in dealing with this condition.
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