Does the thought of just getting through the day make you anxious? If you persistently and excessively worry about all sorts of things, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
People with GAD have a difficult time controlling their worry. They may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms.
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
This differentiates GAD from worry that may be specific to a set stressor or for more limited period of time.
GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.
People with GAD don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. All anxiety disorders may relate to a difficulty tolerating uncertainty and therefore many people with GAD try to plan or control situations. Many people believe worry prevents bad things from happening so they view it is risky to give up worry. At times, people can struggle with physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches.
A number of types of treatment can help with GAD. Supportive and interpersonal therapy can help. Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) has been more researched and specifically targets thoughts, physical symptoms and behaviors including the over-preparation, planning and avoidance that characterizes GAD. Mindfulness based approaches and Acceptance Commitment Therapy have also been investigated with positive outcome. All therapies (sometimes in different ways) help people change their relationship to their symptoms. They help people to understand the nature of anxiety itself, to be less afraid of the presence of anxiety, and to help people make choices independent of the presence of anxiety.
There are a number of medication choices for GAD, usually the SSRIs either alone or in combination with therapy.
Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, and other alternative treatments may also become part of a treatment plan.
Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD, which rarely occurs alone; co-occurring conditions must also be treated with appropriate therapies.
Information courtesy Anxiety and Depression Association of America