Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Symptoms & Treatment

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. (Image via Pexels/ Darina)
Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. (Image via Pexels/ Darina)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health illness that results in fear, worry, and a persistent sense of being overpowered. It is characterized by excessive, frequent, and irrational concerns over mundane issues like obligations at work, one's health, or household duties. Both children and adults may be impacted by this.

You may have a generalized anxiety disorder if you frequently worry without an apparent cause. It is characterized by persistent worry that is out of control. If you worry most days and for at least six months, healthcare professionals may diagnose it as GAD.

For anyone experiencing GAD, it can be difficult to seek treatment. (Image via Pexels/ Darina)
For anyone experiencing GAD, it can be difficult to seek treatment. (Image via Pexels/ Darina)

Who Is Affected By Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

GAD is much more common than you can imagine. (Image via Pexels/ Ivan Samkov)
GAD is much more common than you can imagine. (Image via Pexels/ Ivan Samkov)

6.8 million adult Americans, or 3.1 percent of the country's population, struggle with GAD each year. Two times as many women are likely to be impacted. The illness develops gradually and can start at any stage of life, however, the risk is greatest from childhood through middle age.

There is evidence that biological variables, a person's family history, and life experiences—particularly stressful ones—play a part in the development of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, even though its exact etiology is unknown.

Both adults and children can suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Although it can happen at any age, the illness frequently starts in childhood or adolescence. GAD affects men and people labeled as male at birth twice as frequently as it affects women and people assigned as female at birth.


What Are The Causes Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Nature and nurture both are at play in causing anxiety. (Image via Pexels/ Karolina Grabowska)
Nature and nurture both are at play in causing anxiety. (Image via Pexels/ Karolina Grabowska)

If you are unable to effectively manage your internal stress, GAD may develop. Additionally, it runs in families, but it is unclear why some people develop it while others do not. According to research, brain regions that regulate anxiety and fear are also involved in GAD.

If you have a first-degree biological family (sibling or parent) who has GAD, your chances of developing it increase. Fear and anxiety are largely governed by biological processes as well as various brain regions. These intricate mechanisms continue to be better understood by researchers.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms can appear as a result of medication interactions or drug addiction. It may also be connected to illnesses that cause hormone overproduction, such as hyperthyroidism.

The body's reaction may become more agitated as a result. Stress in the family or in the environment might cause anxiety symptoms. Chronic disease and illness might also contribute to GAD.


Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The symptoms of anxiety don't have a specific trigger. (Image via Pexels/ mart Production)
The symptoms of anxiety don't have a specific trigger. (Image via Pexels/ mart Production)

If you have GAD, you probably realize that your worries are higher than the circumstances warrant, yet you nevertheless are unable to cease these unwarranted worries. People with GAD frequently realize that they worry far more than they should but struggle to manage their fears or jittery feelings.

GAD symptoms can change over time and are frequently exacerbated by stressful situations.

The most typical signs are as follows

  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, Trembling and Twitching
  • Stiff Muscles, Headaches, Irritability, and Sweating
  • Lightheadedness, Difficulty in breathing
  • Stomachaches, headaches, or other unexplainable pains
  • Having trouble falling or staying asleep

GAD symptoms can resemble those of other mental health issues. For a diagnosis, consult your healthcare provider at all times. GAD develops gradually, typically during childhood or adolescence, however, it can sometimes start in maturity. Women are more likely to have it. Frequently, it runs in families.


Treatment Options For Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are several treatment options for GAD. (Image via Pexels/ Rodnae Productions)
There are several treatment options for GAD. (Image via Pexels/ Rodnae Productions)

When recommending a course of therapy for you, your doctor will take into account your general health as well as other variables. Treatment modalities include:

#1 Psychological Therapy

The term psychotherapy, sometimes known as "talk therapy," refers to a number of therapeutic methods intended to assist a patient in recognizing and altering unhelpful feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.

A skilled, certified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, conducts psychotherapy. It can help you perform better and improve your well-being by offering support, knowledge, and direction to you and/or your family.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is most frequently used by mental health practitioners to treat GAD. The method of choice for an efficient and long-lasting response is generally CBT. It has to be given by experts who have the necessary training.

The ideal length of therapy would seem to be 16 to 20 hours, spread out over weekly sessions of an hour or two, and finished in less than four months. When delivering a shorter CBT, it should last 8–10 hours and be built to work with organized self-help resources.


#2 Pharmacological Treatment

To treat GAD, your doctor or psychiatrist may recommend medication. Sedative anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines can be used to treat severe types of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. They can significantly reduce anxiety quickly, but some people become resistant to them and require ever greater dosages to achieve the same results.


Takeaway

The majority of the time, generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that is managed rather than cured, but the doctor's office environment should be supportive of a successful outcome. Long-term assistance and education is needed for a generalized anxiety disorder since the course frequently follows a waxing and waning pattern.

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can function socially, lead fulfilling lives, and find lucrative employment when their anxiety is modest to moderate or with therapy.


Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.

Edited by Ankush Das