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Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

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GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by too much unrealistic anxiety about the aspects of life such as social relationships, financial matters, work issues, etc. Interestingly, panic attacks are not associated with GAD. You may not even recognize that you are already suffering from GAD until these emotions are already interfering with your daily activities.

Some people develop GAD as a child and may not see symptoms until they reach adulthood. Either way, living with GAD may last a long time and in many cases, occurs with other anxiety or mood disorders.

How common is GAD?

There are about four million Americans who suffer from generalized anxiety disorders. GAD often begins during childhood or adolescence but may also start in adulthood. Women are more likely to develop GAD compared to men.

How is GAD diagnosed?

When symptoms of GAD are present, healthcare providers will evaluate by asking questions about one’s medical and psychiatric history; your physician may also require you to undergo a physical examination. To date, there are no lab tests that are used to diagnose GAD and other anxiety disorders correctly; however, doctors use various tests to find physical symptoms of the illness.

Healthcare providers base the diagnoses on reports of the intensity of the symptoms which also includes any problems that are related to functioning caused by the symptoms. Doctors determine the degree of dysfunction and indicate a specific anxiety disorder. To diagnose GAD, the presence of the symptoms should last for more days than not for six months or more.

Symptoms for GAD may include:

  • Constant worrying or obsessing about a particular concern that is either big or small.
  • Not being able to let go of worry.
  • Restlessness, and feeling on edge all the time
  • Inability to concentrate or having your mind feeling like it “goes blank.”
  • Excessive worry
  • Fear of making the wrong decisions or getting distressed about decision making
  • Indecisiveness
  • Exaggerated anxiety about everyday life for no reason. A person with GAD always tends to think that disaster is going to happen anytime soon.
  • Physical signs and symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Easily startled
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS
  • Headaches

Treatment

Like some anxiety disorders, doctors treat GAD with cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. You may be required to speak to a psychiatrist or psychologist who is specially trained to treat GAD and other mental disorders.

Medication for GAD. Drugs like benzodiazepines are used to treat GAD because they are helpful to those whose anxiety intervenes with daily activities; however, these medications are only for the short-term as they can be addictive, sedating, and can affect memory and attention. Benzodiazepines are minor-tranquilizers

Coping with GAD

  1. Connect with people and build a strong support group. Do not be afraid to find solace in connecting with others. A sound support system isn’t a huge crowd. Start with the people close to you.
  2. Talk about your worries with ease. Whenever you feel an overwhelming surge of anxiety, talk it out with the person you trust. Simply talking about your problems can help ease what you’re feeling inside.
  3. Avoid people who add to your stress or make you feel more anxious during an episode. Reaching out is a good thing, but getting in touch with someone who can make you feel more anxious is not good. Before calling someone to talk to, consider asking yourself whether that person can make you feel better or worse after telling them your problem.
  4. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Eat healthier and get some exercise daily. Enough sleep, limiting caffeine, and avoiding alcohol and nicotine, can make a huge difference in your outlook.
  5. Learn how to calm and soothe yourself. There may be times when a trusted individual is not available to talk when you are panicking with anxiety. Therefore, it is also vital that you learn skills you can apply on your own to calm yourself whenever help is out of reach. This also prevents you from becoming dependent on the person you trust with your problems. Here are ways you can do to calm yourself:
  • Distract yourself with good visuals. Look at something that can make you smile; it can be an old photo, a beautiful view, cute animal pictures on the internet.
  • Listen to your favorite song or put on soothing music. A beautiful, calming, meditative sound of nature can also do the trick.
  • Have an aromatherapy session by lighting scented candles, or spraying your favorite perfume. Or go out and breathe fresh air.
  • Take a coffee break. Savor each bite of pie or any favorite treat while sipping coffee or tea. Or enjoy a hard candy or chew your favorite gum.
  • Have a quick neck massage. Neck and shoulder exercises can also help release muscle tension, making you feel more relaxed.
  • Go for a walk, or stand up from your chair and do some stretches. Shaking off your hands or jumping up and down gently, can also help alternatively.

How do we overcome the stigma for GAD?

The most significant factors that make stigma so powerful is that in extreme levels, it may lead to rejection from others. Someone with GAD or other psychological disorders may think that opening up to friends or family will make them suffer severe social problems; making it even more difficult for many individuals to seek professional help.

It is undeniable that stigma is real and that it can affect a person’s life significantly. However, for those individuals who seek help has shown significant improvements in their lives. When individuals disclose their problems to family and friends, they often feel a substantial advancement in their relationships, contrary to their expected exclusions and rejections. Lastly, most people also notice a decline in social or work problems right after they start facing their struggles with anxiety.

 

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