Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common type of anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and unreasonable worry about certain events and the future. People with GAD are more likely to stress over future events that hold no connection or importance in their present lives. 

Did you know more than 2.7% of U.S adults suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder? 

We all get stressed due to the hectic schedule and other matters of our lives but people with GAD worry a lot! This is the main symptom of GAD.  This excessive worry often affects the smooth functioning of an individual’s daily life as the individual often stresses about everyday matters, such as health, family, finances, relationships, work, and even death. 

Speaking of how much people suffer from anxiety disorders globally, an estimated 275 million or 4% of the global population has a type of anxiety disorder. 

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Living with a generalized anxiety disorder could be pretty challenging, especially if your symptoms worsen over a period of time. Children, teens, and adults are more likely to develop the symptoms of GAD which are almost similar to other types of disorders, such as panic disorder, OCD, etc. 

Here are the common symptoms associated with GAD: 

  1. Excessive worry and anxiety about things that one has no control over
  2. Uncontrollable thoughts about certain things
  3. An emotional outbreak due to the inability to control repetitive thoughts that are disturbing
  4. Inability to calm and relax
  5. Difficulty concentrating
  6. Overthinking and stressing about things that are out of proportion to the impact of the events

Physical Signs and Symptoms 

  1. Muscle tension 
  2. Fatigue 
  3. Restlessness
  4. Sweating
  5. Rapid breathing 
  6. Nausea
  7. Vomiting
  8. Headache
  9. Dry mouth
  10. Numbness or tingling in various parts of the body
  11. Weakness
  12. Diarrhea or gastrointestinal issues
  13. Difficulty sleeping

Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Well, the cause of generalized anxiety disorder is likely to develop from a number of factors, including biological and environmental. Differences in brain chemistry and its functions, genetics, development and personality are some of the factors that could cause GAD. 

Here are some of the risk factors:

  1. GAD may run in family members 
  2. Emotional or traumatic experiences. People with GAD may have gone through negative experiences or recent traumatic events that could trigger GAD symptoms. 
  3. Chronic medical conditions or other mental health disorders could also increase the risk
  4. People with negative temperaments are more prone to generalized anxiety disorder. 

Treatment 

Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that needs different types of treatment depending upon the severity of the condition. Generally, a combination of psychotherapy and medications is considered the best treatment for managing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. 

Psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in the quick treatment of a patient with GAD. It helps discover the underlying causes of the condition, the trigger points, the responsive attitude towards the triggers, and so much more. Here are the main therapies for the treatment of different types of anxiety disorders including GAD. 

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is the most common type of behavioral therapy that aims to reduce the symptoms of depression and various types of mental health disorders. The therapy emphasizes challenging the disturbing patterns including a patient’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. Moreover, it also helps you understand your trigger points and accordingly develop coping strategies to improve emotional regulation. Simply put, getting cognitive behavioral therapy helps you identify your negative or discouraging thought patterns and help them replace with realistic and positive thoughts. 
  2. Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a common technique used in behavioral therapy to treat a number of conditions including anxiety disorders, specific phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  In this therapy, you’re exposed to a condition that you’re afraid of and are taught the best ways to cope with the condition using a technique known as ‘systematic desensitization. It involves three steps: 
  • You will be given relaxing training to help manage your anxiety symptoms. Training includes deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, etc. 
  • The next step is to create a list of all your triggers that make you anxious and rank them in terms of their severity. 
  • In the final step, you would be exposed to your triggering conditions and will be taught step-by-step actions to combat your anxiety. 

There are many online clinics available that treat different types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder. Websites like steady care medical are a good example. 

Medications 

Below are the common types of medications used to treat generalized anxiety disorder:

  1. Antidepressants: Though antidepressants may not completely cure the disorder but greatly helps reduce symptoms. There are a bunch of antidepressants available but your doctor will recommend the ones which are best-suited to manage your symptoms. Do not take antidepressants without your doctor’s recommendation. 
  2. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are used to manage various medical conditions including anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. There are different types of benzodiazepines with slightly different uses. Too much consumption of the drug could be risky and lead to some severe side effects. Again, consult a licensed doctor before taking any type of medication. 
  3. Hydroxyzine: Hydroxyzine medications are used to manage anxiety symptoms and control muscle tension triggered by nervous and emotional conditions.  
  4. Buspirone: Buspirone belongs to the class of medications named anxiolytics and is used as a short-term treatment for anxiety disorders including GAD.  These medications help you think more clearly, relax and calm your body to easily perform your everyday tasks. 

Final Thoughts 

Summing up the entire discussion, it could be concluded that while anxiety disorders including GAD cannnot be completely cured but following the right treatment diligently could reduce the intensity of the symptoms and could highly improve one’s quality of life. If you think you have symptoms of anxiety, instead of jumping to conclusions by yourself, make sure you talk to a doctor and share your exact condition to get the best guidance.