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What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What Is A Panic Disorder

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

If you have a panic disorder, you get intense, sudden panic attacks. These attacks often feature stronger, more intense feelings than other types of anxiety disorders.

The feelings of terror may start suddenly and unexpectedly or they may come from a trigger, like facing a situation you dread. Panic attacks can resemble heart attacks. If theres any chance youre experiencing a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Its better to err on the side of caution and have a healthcare professional check you.

During a panic attack, you may experience:

  • Sweating.
  • Chest pain.
  • Feeling of choking, which can make you think youre having a heart attack or going crazy.

Panic attacks are very upsetting. People with panic disorder often spend a lot of time worrying about the next panic attack. They also try to avoid situations that might trigger an attack.

How Generalised Anxiety Disorder Is Treated

GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms.

These include:

With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels. But some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.

How Is It Diagnosed

Your doctor will ask about your health and how often you worry or feel anxious. People with generalized anxiety disorder have more worry and stress than normal. They feel worried and stressed about many things almost every day. And these feelings have lasted for at least 6 months.

Your doctor also may ask about other symptoms, like whether you:

  • Feel restless.
  • Have a hard time thinking or feel that your mind goes blank.
  • Feel cranky.
  • Have tense muscles.
  • Have sleep problems.

A physical examination and tests can help make sure that your symptoms aren’t caused by a different condition, such as a thyroid problem.

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How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed

If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Theyll start with a complete medical history and physical examination.

There are no lab tests or scans that can diagnose anxiety disorders. But your provider may run some of these tests to rule out physical conditions that may be causing symptoms.

Substances And Anxiety In Gad

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

While there are no substances that are known to cause generalized anxiety disorder , certain substances or the withdrawal from certain substances have been implicated in promoting the experience of anxiety. For example, even while benzodiazepines may afford individuals with GAD relief from anxiety, withdrawal from benzodiazepines is associated with the experience of anxiety among other adverse events like sweating and tremor.

Tobacco withdrawal symptoms may provoke anxiety in smokers and excessive caffeine use has been linked to aggravating and maintaining anxiety.

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What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder

This condition mostly happens to children or teens, who may worry about being away from their parents. Children with separation anxiety disorder may fear that their parents will be hurt in some way or not come back as promised. It happens a lot in preschoolers. But older children and adults who experience a stressful event may have separation anxiety disorder as well.

Can Anxiety Disorders Be Prevented

You cant prevent anxiety disorders. But you can take steps to control or reduce your symptoms:

  • Check out medications: Talk to a healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies. Some of these contain chemicals that may make anxiety symptoms worse.
  • Limit caffeine: Stop or limit how much caffeine you consume, including coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Seek help: Get counseling and support if you experienced a traumatic or disturbing event. Doing so can help prevent anxiety and other unpleasant feelings from disrupting your life.

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The Difference Between Normal Worry And Gad

Worries, doubts, and fears are a normal part of life. Its natural to be anxious about an upcoming test or to worry about your finances after being hit by unexpected bills. The difference between normal worrying and generalized anxiety disorder is that the worrying involved in GAD is:

  • Excessive.
Normal Worry vs. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Normal Worry:
Your worrying doesnt get in the way of your daily activities and responsibilities. Your worrying significantly disrupts your job, activities, or social life.
Youre able to control your worrying. Your worrying is uncontrollable.
Your worries, while unpleasant, dont cause significant distress. Your worries are extremely upsetting and stressful.
Your worries are limited to a specific, small number of realistic concerns. You worry about all sorts of things, and tend to expect the worst.
Your bouts of worrying last for only a short time period. Youve been worrying almost every day for at least six months.

Be Careful Of Interactions

Anxiety – What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Medications used to treat anxiety can have negative effects when taken with some other medications. This includes some herbal and “natural” treatments. Always tell your healthcare provider and your pharmacist what other medicationsprescription or notyou are taking.

These medications can also interact with alcohol. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about whether or not it is safe to drink alcohol while taking your medication.

Antidepressant drugs

These drugs act on neurotransmitters involved in many regions of the brain that affect anxiety, mood, and arousal.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors prescribed for anxiety include:

  • Fluoxetine

These coexisting conditions can make treatment more difficult, but not impossible.

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How To Distinguish Between Productive And Unproductive Worrying

If youre focusing on what if scenarios, your worrying is unproductive.

Once youve given up the idea that your worrying somehow helps you, you can start to deal with your worry and anxiety in more productive ways. This may involve challenging irrational worrisome thoughts, learning how to stop worrying, and learning to accept uncertainty in your life.

How Is Gad Treated

Your healthcare provider will consider your overall health, and other factors when advising treatment for you.

Treatment may include:

  • Counseling
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Working with a therapist to boost coping skills
  • Making lifestyle changes to reduce stress and avoid stimulating substances. Also, seek help with quitting smoking, drug or alcohol use.

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How Do You Diagnose Generalized Anxiety

A health care provider or mental health professional will typically diagnose GAD and can determine whether your symptoms are indicative of another health problem, such as an additional mental health condition or substance use disorder. By asking detailed questions about your medical history and any current symptoms, your physician can understand what you are experiencing. As signs of GAD tend to occur every day, symptoms that last at least six months or longer can be a strong indication of the presence of GAD.

A physical exam will help assess possible signs of GAD and indicate whether certain medications or underlying medical conditions exacerbate your anxiety. Your physician may also order blood or urine tests if they suspect that an additional medical condition contributes to your symptoms.

GAD is often co-morbid with panic disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. A mental health screening and additional psychological questionnaires will help your physician and psychiatrist understand how anxiety affects your life.

By performing a psychological evaluation based on the criteria of GAD listed in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , your physician or a psychiatrist can determine the validity of a GAD diagnosis.

How Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed

Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder can be diagnosed with the DSM-5 criteria or various questionnaires such as the GAD-7 by a mental health professional or primary care physician. The clinician may ask about the patients symptoms, family history, and medical history and conduct a physical exam. It may take time to distinguish generalized anxiety from other medical or mental health conditions such as OCD, phobias, and depression.

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Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Treatments for generalized anxiety disorder include psychotherapy, medication, or both. One form of psychotherapy that has been shown effective in treating GAD in research is cognitive behavior therapy . CBT targets a personâs thoughts and actions and attempts to change them in order to alleviate anxious feelings and worries. Medications include anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Antidepressants can be used to treat both depressive and anxiety disorders. They are different from anti-anxiety medications in that they generally take a few weeks to go into effect and one has to take them consistently. A combination of psychotherapy and medications has shown to be an effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder.

What Is An Anxiety Disorder

An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating.

Its normal to have some anxiety. You may feel anxious or nervous if you have to tackle a problem at work, go to an interview, take a test or make an important decision. And anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so we stay safe.

But an anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:

  • Anxiety interferes with your ability to function.
  • You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
  • You cant control your responses to situations.

Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get through the day. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for anxiety disorders.

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Is Anxiety Rising Among Youth

Anxiety seems to be on the rise among children and teenagers. The percentage of those 6 to 17 years old who have been diagnosed with anxiety increased from 5.5 percent in 2007 to 6.4 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research from 2021 suggests that 20 percent of children and adolescents have experienced clinically elevated symptoms of anxiety. Many factors may be contributing to the rise in youth anxiety, such as intense pressure and expectations, overprotective parenting, social media, and shifting definitions of mental illness.

Who Can Diagnose Anxiety Disorders

What is generalized anxiety disorder? (GAD)

If your provider finds no signs of physical illness, they may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They may use specially designed interview and assessment tools to figure out if you have an anxiety disorder. Typically, the provider bases a diagnosis on:

  • Your reported symptoms, including how intense they are and how long they last.
  • Discussion of how the symptoms interfere with your daily life.
  • The providers observation of your attitude and behavior.

Providers also consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The American Psychiatric Association publishes the DSM-5. Its the standard reference manual for diagnosing mental illnesses.

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Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD develops gradually, but there are several signs associated with the disorder that can indicate its presence. General mental and emotional symptoms of GAD may include:

  • Persistent or all-encompassing feelings of worry or anxiety out of proportion to the actual events
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of nervousness or apprehension
  • Overthinking solutions and plans to all possible worst-case scenarios
  • Difficulty dealing with uncertainty
  • Perceiving harmless events and situations as threatening
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Indecisiveness and constant fear about making the wrong decision
  • Feeling tense, restless and unable to relax and set aside worry

GAD may also cause several physical symptoms in both adults and children that can make it difficult to function daily. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and feeling constantly tired
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Muscle tension, aches or twitches
  • Excessive trembling or shaking
  • Nausea, diarrhea or intestinal issues
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability or feeling on edge
  • Having a hard time swallowing
  • Constant urge to use the bathroom
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Headaches, stomach aches or other body pains

Children with GAD can experience worry about their academic and athletic performances or experience heightened fear regarding world catastrophes and natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and wildfires.

How Do People With Gad Act In Daily Life

Perfectionism: Many adults with GAD are perfectionists. They can spend hours on a simple task, in an attempt to make sure that they have completed it perfectly. This might involve re-reading a school or work assignment repeatedly, or agonizing over small details at work or in the home .

Intolerance of Uncertainty: People with GAD seem to be allergic to uncertainty. That is, they dont like it when they are not 100% sure of themselves, others, their actions and decisions, or the future. Because of this, they will often engage in tiring and time-consuming behaviours designed to make them feel more certain, including:

  • Excessive reassurance-seeking
  • Checking
  • Information seeking or list making
  • Refusal to delegate to others
  • Avoidance/procrastination. This can include avoiding friendships or new opportunities, and procrastinating as long as possible before completing a task
  • Having others make decisions for you. Because of the uncertainty of making decisions, some people with GAD will hand off the responsibility for decision making to others
  • Distraction/keeping busy. Many people with GAD will try to keep moving all day long in order to keep their minds busy and to avoid worrying. If you are always distracting yourself with other worries, you wont have time to think about all the uncertain things that are coming up in your life. The problem with this strategy is that it is tiring, and the worries and thoughts about uncertainty come back as soon as you try to relax

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Avoidance And Safety Behaviours

People with anxiety may often use avoidance as a coping mechanism. This is where they try to avoid feared situations as much as possible to reduce their anxiety. Avoidance can cause a quick decrease in anxiety, but it can worsen anxiety in the long run.

People with anxiety may also rely on safety behaviours as another way to cope. This can include relying on medications, having an exit plan, excessive use of a phone to distract themselves, or having another person with them that they trust.

Although these safety behaviours can help reduce feelings of anxiety, people can become too dependent on them, and they are not challenging themselves to see that the perceived threat was not that threatening.

Also, safety behaviours may not be available in every anxiety-provoking situation so when not available, more feelings of anxiety may be produced.

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