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What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Self

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – causes, symptoms & treatment

Support from other people is vital to overcoming GAD. Social interaction with someone who cares about you is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety, so its important to find someone you can connect with face to face on a regular basisyour significant other, a family member, or a friend, perhaps. This person should be someone you can talk to for an uninterrupted period of time, someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted by the phone or other people.

Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. Were not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesnt necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Dont underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you.

Talk it out when your worries start spiraling. If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, meet with a trusted family member or friend. Just talking face to face about your worries can make them seem less threatening.

Know who to avoid when youre feeling anxious. Your anxious take on life may be something you learned when you were growing up. If your mother is a chronic worrier, she is not the best person to call when youre feeling anxiousno matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem.

What Is It Like To Have Gad

I was worried all the time and felt nervous. My family told me that there were no signs of problems, but I still felt upset. I dreaded going to work because I couldnt keep my mind focused. I was having trouble falling asleep at night and was irritated at my family all the time.

I saw my doctor and explained my constant worries. My doctor sent me to someone who knows about GAD. Now I am working with a counselor to cope better with my anxiety. I had to work hard, but I feel better. Im glad I made that first call to my doctor.

Genetics And Family History

Its fairly common for anxiety disorders to run in families.

Research suggests you have about a of developing an anxiety disorder if your parent has one.

Certain genes may also affect personality traits that have been linked to anxiety disorders.

For example, people with higher levels of neuroticism tend to have more anxiety and depressed mood. There may be at least some genetic aspect that means you may be more likely to have this trait.

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How Does Medication Treat Anxiety Disorders

Medications cant cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include:

  • Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry. They work quickly, but you can build up a tolerance to them. That makes them less effective over time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the short-term, then taper you off or the provider may add an antidepressant to the mix.
  • Antidepressants can also help with anxiety disorders. They tweak how your brain uses certain chemicals to improve mood and reduce stress. Antidepressants may take some time to work, so be patient. If you feel like youre ready to stop taking antidepressants, talk to your provider first.
  • Beta-blockers, usually used for high blood pressure, can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. They can relieve rapid heartbeat, shaking and trembling.

Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the right medication combination and dosage. Dont change the dose without consulting your provider. Theyll monitor you to make sure the medicines are working without causing negative side effects.

Symptoms Of Gad In Brief

Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Step by step guide

The signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder differ from one person to the next. A few physical and mental indicators are listed below.

  • Worrying about something all the time and expecting bad things to happen.
  • Making situations seem more dangerous, even when they arent.
  • Youre having trouble making decisions since youre indecisive.
  • Irritability, anxiousness, and persistent mental strain are all symptoms.
  • You feel tired, have muscle aches, and are having trouble sleeping.
  • A person with GAD is unable to relax and has a constant sense of restlessness.
  • You may feel jittery and weak.
  • Uncertainty is difficult to deal with
  • Generalized anxiety disorder makes you unable to concentrate and your mind feels as though its going blank.
  • You may have a racing heartbeat, numbness, and tingling in various areas of your body

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Trauma Or Experience Based Factors

While clearly both genetic and biological factors have the potential to contribute to a person developing GAD, a greater percentage of people start to develop the disorder due to complex environmental, psychological, and social factors.

Traumatic experiences can play a big role in the development of generalized anxiety disorder, especially in the formative childhood years. Difficult events such as neglect, mental or physical abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, isolation, and abandonment can all be contributing factors. In fact, studies have found that traumatic events and maltreatment in early childhood can severely affect the physical development of a childs brain, leaving them predisposed to anxiety disorder later in life.

Some behavioral health professionals also believe that anxiety can be a learned behavior. They suggest that having a primary caregiver or parent that exhibits anxious behavior during a childs formative years can greatly increase their risk of developing GAD. Children learn how to overcome challenging and stressful situations from the important people that are close to them. If their caregiver exhibits poor or less effective stress management, their children do the same. These early social interactions and learning experiences can directly affect the development of GAD later in life.

How Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed

If the typical symptoms develop and persist then a doctor can usually be confident that you have GAD. Current guidelines from the International Classification of Diseases tenth edition suggest the diagnosis should be made if you have had your symptoms for six months but it is sometimes difficult to tell if you have GAD, panic disorder, depression, or a mixture of these conditions.

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety can be caused by physical problems which can be confused with anxiety. So, sometimes other conditions may need to be ruled out. For example:

  • Drinking a lot of caffeine .
  • The side-effect of some prescribed medicines. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants.
  • Certain heart conditions which cause the sensation of having a ‘thumping heart’ – uncommon.
  • Low blood sugar level .
  • Tumours which make too much adrenaline and other similar hormones .

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Symptoms Of Generalised Anxiety Disorder

People with generalised anxiety disorder experience several mental, emotional and physical symptoms, including:

  • excessive and unreasonable worry over events or activities, such as work, school or health
  • excessive worry about their capacity and confidence to deal with situations
  • inability to control or stop their worrying
  • feelings of apprehension
  • sleep disturbance .

Causes Behind Generalized Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorders

Below, weve compiled a list of some of the research-based potential causes of generalized anxiety disorders .

  • Psychiatric disorders run in families and are passed down through the generations, so if someone in your family has GAD, you may be at risk.
  • Long-term exposure to stressful conditions such as domestic violence, the death of a loved one, or financial difficulties
  • Certain chemical changes in the brain including decreased use of serotonin in the pathway connecting the thinking and emotional brain underlies the experience of anxiety.

How to Deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is usually treated with a mix of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Its also possible that your daily habits have an impact.


When it comes to anxiety problems, psychotherapy is an important mental health treatment that most people choose. Generalized anxiety disorder treatment must include cognitive-behavioral therapy , which focuses on mood swings and thought processes.

To reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, experts recommend using this strategy for at least 3 month. During these sessions, a person learns to detect the factors that cause anxiety attacks, as well as ways for staying calm during them. In order to achieve faster outcomes, the doctor may prescribe drugs in addition to therapy.


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How Can I Calm My Anxiety

Learning your triggers is the first step toward coping with your anxiety. Seeking therapy, establishing supportive connections, practicing stress-relieving techniques, exercising and following a healthy diet, and taking medications can all help to calm your anxiety and help you live a happy life with less worry.

Neurological Causes Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

It is thought differences in the following neurotransmitters play a role in causing GAD:

  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid

It is these chemicals that are altered by antidepressants, some of which are effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. Abnormal levels of other chemicals, like peptides and hormones, may also partially cause generalized anxiety disorder.

MRI scans have revealed that some structures of the brain are changed in some anxiety disorders.

Impaired cognitive functioning also appears to be tied to generalized anxiety disorder in both children and adults.

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How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder

There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:

  • Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
  • Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
  • Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.

What Are The Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Peer Reviewed Articles

GAD is different from say having a phobia. People with phobias are fearful of something in particular for example, spiders, heights, or speaking in public. If you have GAD, you have an uneasy feeling about life in general.

Its often associated with feelings of dread or unease and youre in a state of constant worry over everything. For example, if a friend doesnt call you back within an hour, you may start to worry you did something wrong and the friend is upset with you. If you are waiting for someone to pick you up and hes a few minutes late, you may start to fear the worst that he was in an accident instead of thinking that he simply got stuck in traffic.

The difference between worry and GAD is that people who are not suffering from GAD can rationalize their fears and resolve them. With GAD, there is no off switch. If you are suffering from GAD, you are experiencing a constant state of worry and you cant avoid it, because basically, just living is causing you anxiety.

GAD can manifest both mentally and physically. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:

The physical manifestations chronic neck and back pain, headache, stomach and abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome that can accompany anxiety disorder can be mild or severe, Dr. Seymour explains. Often anxiety is not the problem its what manifests from it emotionally and physically.

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Anxiety Caused By Anxiety

Anxiety is also self-sustaining. Earlier we mentioned panic attacks, and how they can often be caused by periods of stress that become overwhelming. But once youve had your first panic attack, you may get them again and again because of a fear of panic attacks, or because your body becomes more attuned to how it feels, which ultimately triggers them in the future.

We see this in other ways too:

  • If you found yourself nervous about a plane ride, you might be fearful on future plane rides.
  • If you find yourself worried about a negative thought, you may have that thought more often.
  • If you experienced severe anxiety symptoms, you may be anxious about experiencing them again.

Essentially, anxiety and a fear of anxiety symptoms can create more anxiety in the future. They become their own self-sustaining cycle. So even justifiable anxiety can lead to unprompted anxiety.

Other Ways To Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Some people find that medication alone can be helpful in the treatment of GAD, while others are more likely to benefit from psychotherapy. Some find that the combination of psychotherapy and medication is the best course of action. Engaging in certain behaviors may also ease your anxiety and promote a healthier lifestyle. These include:

Daily exercise. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem. As little as five minutes of daily exercise can have anti-anxiety effects.

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. A healthy diet cant cure anxiety, but it can contribute to overall health and wellbeing. Eating breakfast high in protein, consuming foods high in complex carbohydrates, drinking water, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and paying attention to food sensitivities can increase energy and motivation, reduce physical symptoms associated with anxiety, and improve mood overall.

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How Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed

GAD is diagnosed with a mental health screening that your primary care provider can perform. They will ask you questions about your symptoms and how long youve had them. They can refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Your doctor may also do medical tests to determine whether there is an underlying illness or substance abuse problem causing your symptoms. Anxiety has been linked to:

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • heart disease
  • menopause

If your primary care provider suspects that a medical condition or substance abuse problem is causing anxiety, they may perform more tests. These may include:

  • blood tests, to check hormone levels that may indicate a thyroid disorder
  • urine tests, to check for substance abuse
  • gastric reflux tests, such as an X-ray of your digestive system or an endoscopy procedure to look at your esophagus, to check for GERD
  • X-rays and stress tests, to check for heart conditions

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