If you’re suffering from GAD, you’ll find yourself worrying persistently and excessively about a variety of things. Many people with generalized anxiety disorder worry continuously about money or health issues. Others are troubled by problems at work or issues at home.
Often, people with GAD worry about events out of all proportion to the reality of the situation, and also commonly fear the worst outcome even when there is no obvious cause for concern.
In any given year, almost 7 million adults in the US suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. This translates to almost 3% of the population, so GAD is surprisingly widespread in the United States.
Women are more than twice as likely to experience generalized anxiety disorder as men. While the exact cause is unknown, biological factors, genetics, and life events all play a role. GAD typically comes on gradually, and can begin at any stage. That said, it’s most likely to occur between childhood and middle age.
Luckily, with therapy and treatment for anxiety, you can manage symptoms and move on with a normal life rather than being permanently blighted by baseless fears.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder 101
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most commonly reported of all mental health conditions, and it’s characterized by uncontrollable worrying. GAD is sometimes called chronic anxiety neurosis, although this definition is fading.
GAD differs from normal, healthy feelings of anxiety. Feeling concern, even to the point of anxiety, about financial hardship or major life events is understandable. If you find yourself worrying about finances for months on end, though, you could be suffering from GAD.
Also, people affected by GAD often worry when there is no reason to worry. Sometimes, and distressingly, the person understands there is no reason to worry, acknowledges that everything is objectively fine, but then worries anyway.
In some cases, people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder cannot even articulate what they are worrying about.
However it unfolds, excessive and unrealistic worries can interfere with daily activities and introduce stress into relationships. Also and obviously, it’s very uncomfortable for the person concerned, and they find it very hard to relax with this nagging worry in the back of their mind.
Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed if you find it hard to control worrying on more days than not over a period of at least six months. Three or more symptoms must be present. Using these criteria, it’s possible to differentiate GAD from event-specific worries.
What symptoms should you be looking out for, then?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
- Problems with focus
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach aches
What Causes GAD?
There are many possible risk factors for generalized anxiety disorder. These include:
- Family history of anxiety disorders
- Childhood abuse
- Excessive use of tobacco or caffeine
- Prolonged exposure to stressful situations
- Family illnesses
What are the Different Anxiety Treatments?
Treatment will be tailored according to the extent that generalized anxiety disorder is disrupting your daily living.
There are two main forms of treatment available:
Often, these treatments are delivered in combination.
In many cases, you’ll need to experiment with both medications and talk therapies before finding a treatment plan that sticks.
Several medications can be used to effectively treat the symptoms of GAD, including the following:
- Antidepressants: SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants are first-line treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. Your healthcare provider will discuss your various options if antidepressants are deemed appropriate for your circumstances
- Benzodiazepines: Sometimes, benzodiazepines are prescribed for the relief of anxiety symptoms. These habit-forming sedatives should only be used short-term, and you should avoid benzos if you have a history of alcohol abuse or substance abuse
- Buspirone: This anti-anxiety medication is safe to use long-term. The medication normally takes several weeks to become fully effective
Psychotherapy or talk therapy like CBT and DBT can be highly effective for treating anxiety disorder.
Of all forms of psychotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is best suited to treating GAD.
You’ll learn specific skills to manage your worries more efficiently and without adverse consequences. This form of psychotherapy helps you to explore the relationship between your thoughts and your actions, and will show you how to change destructive behaviors.
Through this collaborative process, you should find your symptoms ease. As you master the basics of CBT, you’ll find it gives you agency – the ability to act as your own therapist.
How Lifestyle Changes Can Help Combat GAD
Here are some simple lifestyle factors that can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder when used alongside a comprehensive treatment plan.
- Stay active: Aim for at least thirty minutes of exercise daily. Exercise can improve mood and reduce stress. If you are not especially fit, start exercising slowly within your comfortable limits. Build up to half an hour daily
- Prioritize sleep health: If you’re not getting the right quality and quantity of sleep, this won’t help the symptoms of GAD. Speak with your healthcare provider if you’re don’t feel sufficiently rested
- Eat healthy whole foods: Eat plenty of whole foods and minimize processed foods. Focus on plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. If you find it hard to get enough of these onboard, consider juicing or making smoothies
- Avoid drink and drugs: Alcohol and illegal drugs can inflame the symptoms of anxiety
- Practice meditation or yoga: Many techniques like meditation and yoga can help you to better relax, ideal for combating feelings of anxiety without a chemical crutch
- Limit caffeine and nicotine: Coffee and cigarettes both worsen anxiety
Coping with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Make sure you stick with your treatment plan once it’s in place. Attend all therapy sessions and implement the skills you learn in psychotherapy.
From following up on work you do in sessions to taking your medication and attending appointments, be consistent as you attempt to excise anxiety from your life.
Be proactive and work with your mental health professional instead of sitting back and expecting to get better without putting in any effort.
Try to be mindful, focusing on the present and things you can change, rather than getting bogged down mulling over past events or pondering things you can do nothing to change.
Don’t let anxiety stop you from socializing, and join a support group to get inspiration from others undergoing broadly similar experiences.
Generalized Anxiety Treatment at Renaissance Recovery
With the right anxiety disorder treatment, there’s no reason you can’t put the nagging worries holding you back firmly behind you.
If you have a co-occurring alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, we have a variety of personalized dual diagnosis treatment programs ideal for addressing both issues at the same time. With a combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, you can ease withdrawal symptoms while minimizing cravings and changing destructive behaviors.
Call the friendly Renaissance Recovery team at 866.330.9449 to get things started.