What is General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
General anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by a persistent and excessive state of anxiety lasting for at least six months. You may overly worry about any number of things.
A person with general anxiety disorder (GAD) can worry more than is needed about past, actual or future events. They can be inordinately concerned about family, money, health or work. Worrying about anything and everything cannot be controlled and this worry just does not go away.
This disorder affects about three percent of the population and includes both adults and children. However, it’s more prevalent in women than men. (1)
The worry associated with this disease is overwhelming and can disrupt all aspects of day to day life. The symptoms include:
The feeling of being on edge can be constant with this disorder. You are unable to switch off from worrying or feeling fearful about things.
It’s common to obsesses about everyday events which stops your mind from taking some down time and you feel unable to settle. Relaxation also becomes impossible and concentration is difficult. (2)
Worrying about worrying, or being afraid of being afraid can take its toll and leave you feeling lethargic and tired. Fatigue may set in and you may feel like you just can’t be bothered to do things you would normally enjoy. Simply getting out of bed can be a chore and socializing is beyond your capabilities. (3)
Lack of Concentration
You may find that your anxiety will interfere with your ability to concentrate on things and often find that your mind goes blank. (4)
When you are irritable you become frustrated or upset easily, you also become annoyed or angry quicker. (5)
People who are anxious may flex their muscles and not be able to relax them causing tension in the muscles. This has been shown to be elevated in anxiety associated disorders. (6)
A symptom of this disorder may be difficulty falling or staying asleep. Restless sleep can leave you feeling tired and listless. It is estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of people with general anxiety disorder (GAD) suffer from some sort of insomnia. (7)
There are many emotional symptoms associated with this disorder. They include inability to handle uncertainty, indecisiveness, apprehensiveness and expecting the worst when there is no reason for concern.
Anxiety can produce physical symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. You may develop nausea and feel sick. (8)
We are all born with an instinctive “fight or flight” response to something that might frighten or threaten us. This nervous, fearful sensation we get when afraid is triggered by our brain and it’s what makes us feel anxious.
Anxiety is normal from time to time but for adults and children with GAD this feeling does not subside. They will be unable to control their anxiety and worry and it can take over their lives.
There are no stages as such associated with this disorder. Symptoms can present in children and adults alike.
Children and young adults may worry more about performance at school, personal shortcomings or future events. They may wonder what will happen if there is a natural catastrophe or envision impending disasters. They can think that their friends don’t like them or that they just aren’t good at anything.
Children with GAD often want things to be perfect. They can have a huge fear of making mistakes and a distinct fear of criticism.
Adults may obsess over whether their child or partner is safe when they are away from home. They can perceive they will become ill or may just worry about how they are going to get through the day.
Adults and children can genuinely believe that worrying about something bad can prevent it from happening.
GAD is diagnosed when someone is unable to control worry on more days than not for at least six months. For adults they will have three or more symptoms. For children it will be just one. (9,10)
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders and GAD accounts for about two percent of them.
There are treatments available which have proved to be successful in many cases and improve quality of life. (11)
Research shows that therapy is likely an effective option for treating anxiety based disorders.
Anxiety therapy helps you recognize the root cause of your worries or fears to help you overcome them. They can teach you how to relax and help you see situations in new ways. You can also learn to develop skills that will help you cope better and enable you solve problems as they arise.
Therapy treatments for GAD have been adapted so they can treat children as well as adults.
The therapies available are:
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT aims to address negative patterns and distorted views of the way we perceive ourselves or the world around us. This therapy looks at how negative thoughts bring about anxiety (cognition) and how we behave in relation to triggers of stress and anxiety (behaviour).
The basis of CBT is that it’s not what happens but how we perceive it and how that affects the way we feel. It teaches you to identify, challenge and correct negative thoughts. It also encourages you to practice these techniques to alleviate your worry. (12)
This meditation teaches you to take time out and relax. It encourages you to practice focusing your attention on the here and now without judging your feelings. It is thought it can have a positive effect on people suffering with general anxiety disorder (GAD). (13)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
This therapy assists people to become more flexible in their thoughts so they can accept what happens to them. It helps realization in that both suppressing and trying to manage or control what they feel can create its own challenges. (14)
Complementary Therapy and Alternative Medicine
Alternative therapies like acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy using scented oils, completing a journal, nutritional counseling, and exercise may help. This could be alone or in conjunction with other medication or therapies. (15)
The drugs of choice to treat general anxiety disorder (GAD) are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are antidepressants that help reduce anxiety and depression which goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders.
There are other drugs available that can be used should SSRIs not work. (16)
What is general anxiety disorder (GAD)? General anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by a persistent and excessive state of anxiety lasting for at least six months. Worrying about any number of things cannot be controlled even though it may be irrational.
What are the signs of general anxiety disorder (GAD)? Persistent worry, feelings of restlessness, fatigue, irritability and an inability to concentrate are common. You may also find you don’t sleep well and find it it hard to relax.
How do you develop general anxiety disorder (GAD)? The exact cause of this disorder is not known but it is thought that family genetics, biological factors and stressful life experiences play a part. It can happen at any age and affects children and adults alike. (17)
How are you diagnosed for general anxiety disorder (GAD)? There are a number of symptoms associated with this disorder. Adults will display at least three symptoms and worry for more days than not in a six month period. For children the constant worry and anxiety accompanied by one symptom is sufficient for diagnosis.
What is the best treatment for general anxiety disorder (GAD)? Treatments consist of therapy and/or medication. Your physician will discuss the options with you and decide the best course of treatment.
What are the long term complications of general anxiety disorder (GAD)? The nature of disorder can have far reaching effects on your everyday life. The irrational perceived danger in every day events can stop you doing things. You might overly worry about having an accident in your car and therefore not drive. You could be fearful of catching an illness and not go out. These feelings can also affect those around you as you worry about what might happen to them.
Is general anxiety disorder (GAD) considered a disability? The medical diagnosis of this disorder is highly subjective. You may be able to claim social security benefits but proof would be required the disorder severely impairs work and homelife. (18)
Is there a cure for general anxiety disorder (GAD)? The symptoms and severity of this disorder can be controlled and managed with treatment. The propensity for anxiety will always be there and at present there is no known cure.
Is general anxiety disorder (GAD) life threatening? GAD is a disorder than can last a lifetime but can be managed with treatment. It is not considered life threatening however, depression and substance abuse are often associated with GAD. This could lead to suicidal tendencies. (19)
General anxiety disorder (GAD) causes you to worry persistently and irrationally about any number of things. It can impact your everyday life in many ways.
It also affects both children and adults and is more prevalent in women than men.
However, there are successful treatment options available to help you manage and control the symptoms and help reduce your anxiety.