Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Having occasional worries and anxiety are common, especially around stressful life events. However, individuals struggling with GAD have extensive and persistent anxiety that they find hard to control. The anxiety or worries are typically around many different issues including family, work, and environment, and it occurs even when stressful events are not present. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects over 6 million people in the U.S and is twice as common in women.
In order to be diagnosed, excessive worry has to be present for at least 6 months and includes symptoms such as:
- Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
- Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Nausea, stomach issues, headaches
In kids and teens, they can experience additional symptoms including:
- Anxiety around performance at school or sporting events
- Worries about family members’ safety
- Earthquakes, nuclear war, or other catastrophic events
- Feeling overly anxious about fitting in
- Being a perfectionist
- Redoing tasks because they aren’t perfect the first time
- Spending excessive time doing homework
- Requiring a lot of reassurance about performance
- Avoiding going to school or avoiding social situations
The exact cause of GAD is multifactorial in nature and includes genetics, psychological factors and psychosocial factors. GAD can greatly impact one’s life and affect work, school, and relationships. In addition, GAD can manifest physically resulting in headaches, appetite and gastrointestinal issues, muscle tightness and pain, and even cardiovascular effects. Therefore, treatment is imperative to prevent these chronic and persistent worries.
In my practice, I treat GAD based on the severity of symptoms. For example, if the anxiety and worries are on the mild to moderate side, then I consider some great mind-body techniques like yoga, meditation and exercise. There are some great supplements out there and my personal favorites are l-theanine, inositol and Kava. I also recommend therapy to help you develop skills to manage anxiety as well. When these measures do not work, or if the worries and fears are causing moderate to severe issues in work, school, family or social life, then I will consider medication as well. Treating GAD can be life-changing and can help you get your life back on track.
Have questions? Please reach out to me. Generalized anxiety disorder can be serious, and if left untreated, it can rob you of joy, self-esteem, relationships, employment and your life. Help really IS a phone call away.
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