Generalized Anxiety Disorder: More than Just Nervousness
By: Silvia DiPaola, Contributing Writer
Edited by Valeri Guevarra, Founder/Executive Director
Anxiety is something that everybody will experience at least once in their life. When confronted with an issue at work, a high-stakes exam, or a significant life decision, you can experience anxiety. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are more than temporary anxiety or paranoia. Anxiety does not go away when one has an anxiety disorder, which can worsen over time. The fear is not momentary and can be overwhelming. There are many forms of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and phobias; However, I will specifically be discussing GAD and ways to treat it.
Those with GAD are concerned with everyday issues relating to personal health, social interactions, money, jobs, family, and even ordinary routine life circumstances. Their fears are excessive, and they must have had them for at least six months. According to MedlinePlus, the most apparent symptoms of GAD are anxious thoughts or beliefs that are hard to control, physical symptoms, and changes in behavior. The physical symptoms include a pounding or rapid heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath. The changes in behavior might involve avoiding everyday activities. However, there are symptoms of GAD that might not seem as obvious. According to the NIH, the more obscure symptoms of GAD include feeling antsy/agitated/tense, exhaustion, trouble concentrating, muscle tension, difficulty controlling feelings of worry, and having sleep issues (like the inability to get or remain asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfactory sleep). Using caffeine, other substances, and certain medicines can make your anxiety symptoms worse.
Both the NIH and Mayo Clinic say that risk factors for GAD can vary, but they may include genetics, brain chemistry, stress, traits of shyness in childhood, exposure to stressful and negative life or environmental events in early childhood or adulthood, some physical health conditions (like thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias), and/or a history of anxiety or other mental illnesses in biological relatives. The actual cause of anxiety is unknown, which is why these risk factors play an important role.
There are many ways to treat GAD, and people should work with their doctor to choose the right and most effective treatment for them. Medical News Today details some common treatments. Because anxiety disorders are mental health conditions, the general treatments usually involve psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication, or both. Anxiety problems are commonly treated using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a kind of psychotherapy. CBT teaches you how to think and behave in different ways that will not provoke your anxiety. It can assist you in changing how you react to things that make you feel fearful or anxious. Exposure therapy may be a part of it. This focuses on getting you to address your fears directly to do the things you have been avoiding. As for medications, some classes of drugs that can control the physical and mental symptoms include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there are some proven ways to reduce your risk of anxiety disorders. To help moderate anxious emotions, Mayo Clinic and Medical News Today state that you can try to reduce intake of caffeine, tea, and cola, maintain a healthy diet, keep a regular sleep pattern, and avoid alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs.
You can do a variety of things to help cope with GAD symptoms and make treatments more effective. Meditation and stress management practices can be beneficial. Support groups (both in-person and online) can help people share their experiences and coping skills. Learning more about the specifics of GAD and assisting your family and friends in a better understanding of it can also be beneficial!