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What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic mental condition in which a person experiences prolonged anxiety that is not proportional to the situation causing the anxiety. While worrying and having anxiety or stress is a normal part of life, GAD sufferers worry to such an extent that interrupts daily life. People dealing with GAD exhibit a wide range of symptoms, so visiting a healthcare professional is important for an accurate diagnosis.

What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

The precise cause of GAD is still unknown, but there are indicators that the disorder can run in families, suggesting there may be a genetic component in play. It can also be caused by trauma and stressful events, like sexual abuse, death of a loved one, divorce, and more. Many psychiatrists believe that a person’s personality or disposition is a risk factor for developing GAD. Those who have tendencies towards being timid or having negative dispositions are more likely to suffer from GAD than those are positive and outgoing.

One of the major factors that may put you at risk with GAD symptoms is your gender. While men do suffer from anxiety disorder, females develop the condition at twice the rate of men. GAD is also the most common anxiety disorder to affect adults, although the disorder can develop at any point in a person’s life, even in childhood.

Indications and Signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of the disorder are often very similar to those of social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and other chronic mental illnesses. Because anxiety disorders develop gradually, they can be difficult to recognize until the condition has manifested itself completely.

The following symptoms are indicative of GAD:

  • An inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Trouble falling asleep and remaining asleep
  • Experiencing intense anxiety
  • Hot flashes
  • Recognizing the anxiety is too intense compared to the situation
  • Being easily startled
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic irritability
  • Feeling the need to urinate frequently
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Twitching
  • Breathlessness

Not all people suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder will experience all of these symptoms. Individuals can display different symptoms at different times and to different degrees. This is why a professional evaluation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis. GAD can also exacerbate other health conditions that are not directly linked to anxiety disorder. People suffering from heart problems, digestive problems, substance abuse or other mental conditions, such as depression, can see a worsening of symptoms after the onset of GAD.

How is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on a clinical interview done by a therapist and/or Psychiatrist. Questions about symptoms and their duration and intensity will be asked. The diagnosis will be determined based on the history of these prevailing symptoms. Before a diagnosis is made, other health problems leading to GAD-like symptoms must be ruled out. For example, people suffering from substance abuse often exhibit many of the same symptoms as a person with GAD. In this scenario, treating the substance abuse can relieve the GAD-like symptoms. A person truly suffering from GAD is treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.

Why Seek Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

It is important to recognize that GAD requires intervention. People experiencing symptoms of GAD are diagnosed if they have exhibited symptoms for six months or longer. Showing symptom for less time than this is within the bounds of normal anxiety according to healthcare professionals. Because GAD affects a person’s ability to function normally, daily tasks can be difficult to deal with or complete. Suffers of the disorder can have difficulty keeping jobs or maintaining healthy relationships.

Reducing Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

After seeking intervention, there are several ways in which sufferers of GAD can work to help keep symptoms at bay should they ever return. Caffeine can aggravate the symptoms of GAD, so it is best to avoid foods and drinks containing it. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting an appropriate amount of daily exercise is needed to maintain mental health. Diet and exercise should be discussed with a doctor to determine how it can help with GAD. For more information about how to control anxiety in your life, contact Choices Psychotherapy in Minnetonka. We are the area’s number one anxiety counseling center.