We all experience worry and stress at times, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to go away. In fact, it may get worse over time until we don’t feel in control anymore. At Dr. Melissa Larson and Associates in Park City UT, we specialize in diagnosing and treating patients suffering from General Anxiety Disorder. We can help you get your life back through a variety of holistic treatment plans that may include nutrition, exercise, therapy, or medication.
What Is General Anxiety Disorder?
If you have been struggling with constant worrying or stress for more than six months, you may have General Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD.
GAD is more than just experiencing a few stressful events and feeling overwhelmed. Having this disorder can make you frequently stressed or scared to a degree that begins to affect your day-to-day quality of life. It can make it harder to do simple everyday tasks, keep up with loved ones, or try new things.
There are other related disorders too, and it can be helpful to consult with a licensed professional to help you understand what you are experiencing.
How Does It Feel?
GAD can feel different to different people, but there are many common symptoms. Some people will feel a tightness in the chest. Many find that their heart races and their breathing becomes shorter. Some people feel “depersonalization” or “derealization”, where they feel dissociated from, or outside of, themselves or have the feeling that nothing is real. This is a symptom of a feeling of detachment rather than a belief that nothing is real.
Symptoms of the Body
- Chest tightness
- Labored or fast breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Hot and cold flashes
- Fluttering stomach or nausea
- Quickened heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
- Teeth grinding
- Panic attacks
Symptoms of the Mind
- Frequent worry and stress
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Frequently feeling on edge
- Imaging worst-case scenarios
- Constantly replaying negative events
- Inability to calm yourself
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling a sense of dread
Why Is It Happening To Me?
Anxiety is the result of a normal and healthy stress response. When we are in danger, our body undergoes a series of changes in order to best protect us from the threat. This is often characterized as the “fight or flight” response. Hormones are released that quicken our heart rate, fill us with the energy of adrenaline, and divert blood and oxygen into our muscles. All of this helps to prepare our body to either fight or flee the situation.
When we are triggered into an anxious state too frequently, it means that we have an excessive or disordered anxiety response. This is somewhat like a person with allergies having an excessive reaction to pollen. The pollen isn’t dangerous, but the body reacts as though it is, with a full-fledged inflammatory response. Just like allergies, GAD starts out as a healthy defense system but becomes disordered and when it causes problems for us in our everyday lives.
GAD and depression often occur together, and they often run in families. If you have a close family member who struggles with either of these disorders, you yourself are more likely to experience them at some point in your life. There are a variety of theories for why this is the case, but what we know for sure is that these disorders, or our sensitivity to them, do appear to be heritable.
Our environments also play a big part in deciding how our genetic traits express themselves. We unconsciously learn patterns of behavior and emotional responses by interacting with and mirroring our parents and others around us at a young age. We also create fearful associations to things that we encounter that make us feel threatened. These stimuli can sometimes trigger a fear response or anxiety in us throughout our lives.
Benefits of Treating GAD
Treating GAD can help you reclaim your life, your health, and your happiness. It’s hard to enjoy life when you are constantly stressed out. This state keeps us from trying new things and accepting positive opportunities that come our way. It can keep us from making important decisions about our lives. It makes it harder to succeed in work, study, and relationships. It also degrades our health and can lead to illness and disease over time.
One of the first goals in treating this disorder is to help you to enjoy life and thrive. This depends on your being able to relax, rest, and participate in value-based activities that are meaningful to you. When anxiety is keeping you from doing these things, you will quickly find yourself feeling burned out and unhappy. Treating anxiety will help you to reconnect with yourself and the people and activities that are important to you.
Succeeding in Work, Study, and Relationships
GAD and depression both undermine healthy brain functioning, making it harder to concentrate, make decisions, and access memory. This can make work and study much harder than they need to be. Unfortunately, stress over doing well at work or school is a common reason for anxiety. Utilizing techniques and treatments to cope with stress can help to minimize these effects whether you are experiencing normal stress or a disordered response.
Relationships also suffer from the effects of GAD. When you are suffering from this disorder it is much harder to put yourself out there to meet new people and form new relationships. It is also difficult to maintain healthy relationships. Being able to focus mindfully on your partner or friendships is an important part of keeping these relationships going. When your body is in its fight or flight mode, it can be very difficult to give your relationships the care and attention they need to flourish.
Protecting Your Health
Stress is toxic to our bodies and can leave us more susceptible to all sorts of illnesses. Some studies have shown that stress can be as harmful to our bodies as secondhand smoke. Chronic stress or anxiety is not only a less than enjoyable way to live, it is also dangerous for our bodies. Stress is also directly linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, the number one killer of adults in the United States.
The more frequently you experience stress, the easier it is to become stressed, and the longer it can take to calm down. When we are “flooded” with stress hormones frequently, our bodies begin to hold on to those hormones for longer. This means that we stay in a state of alarm for longer periods of time before naturally calming down. The good news is, this process can be reversed with practice and some professional help.
How We Treat GAD
There are multiple ways to treat GAD, and each person will require a different treatment. The most successful treatments will approach the issue from several directions at once. This may include making lifestyle changes, seeing a counsellor or therapist, taking medication, and using techniques such as breathing exercises and mindfulness practices.
For less severe cases of GAD, lifestyle changes may be all that is required to get back on track. Even for more severe cases, lifestyle and mindfulness practices play a big part in providing a solid foundation for good mental health. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be asked to change your habits overnight. Every little bit counts, and sometimes it can take a while to build up new healthy habits. Here are some examples of the things we might look at:
- Breathing Exercises
- Psychologist or Therapist
- SSRI medication
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
We love being able to help our patients free themselves from constant worry. Seeing them come out from under a blanket of anxiety and depression is like seeing the sun burst through the clouds. Giving our patients a strong foundation for resilience and happiness is what we live for. If you’re suffering from GAD, come in and let us help you break free from the clouds and shine like you were meant to. Visit Melissa Lopez-Larson and Associates in Park City, UT to schedule a free consultation.