Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by long-term anxiety, excessive worry, and tension, even though there appears to be no reason to feel this way. This disorder affects about 6.8 million American adults (and twice as many women as men). The disorder usually develops gradually. It can start at any age but the highest-risk years are between childhood and middle age, a rather large time span. Evidence shows that genes play a modest role in GAD.
Those who suffer from GAD will go through the day feeling worried and aprehensive. They often anticipate disaster in even minor situations and are usually overly concerned about various issues such as health, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. It may even be hard getting started in the morning because of the thought of what lies ahead of them for the day.
If you find you have been over-worrying about many every-day problems for at least 6 months, you may be diagnosed with GAD. Although you may realize that your concerns are exaggerated, the problem still persists. Not being able to relaxe, startling easily, having difficulty concentrating are all symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Other problems include having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
The level of severity of your GAD can vary greatly. If you are diagnozed with a mild case, you can function socially for the most part and hold down a job with little difficulty. If your GAD is severe, you can find it difficult even to complete what may seem like the simplest activities.
GAD is usually treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover exactly what treatments work best for you.
Medications include antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertaline (Zoloft), venlafaxine (Effexor) and imipramine (Tofranil); Buspirone (BuSpar); and Benzodiazepines like clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and alprazolam (Xanax). Benzodiazepines are for the most part only used for relieving acute anxiety on a short-term basis (for example, when you are having an attack). However, they have a tendency to be addictive and some pretty serious side effects like drowsiness, reduced muscle coordination and impaired balance and memory.
Psychotherapy, often referred to as talk therapy and psychological counseling, deals with trying to work out the underlying life stresses and concerns that may cause your GAD. Once these have been identified, it is possible to and make behavior changes that can reduce your anxiety. One of the most recognized types of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Basically, short-term cognitive behavioral therapy aims to teach you specific skills that you can then use to identify negative thoughts and behaviors and substitute them with positive ones.
The above information about generalized anxiety disorder does not substitute medical advice given by a health professional.