Fundamentals of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is most frequently identified by its recurrent, prolonged pattern of excessive anxiety and worry. Individuals with this anxiety disorder usually agonize over relatively expected concerns including daily finances, health, family concerns, responsibilities at work, or even such minor issues as car repairs and household chores.
The focus of worries and anxiety may frequently shift back and forth between several different concerns and the sensations may vary between dread, terror and mild tension.
Some studies have found that Generalized Anxiety Disorder may affect between 2% and 3% of the general population. For many individuals with this disorder, they are aware that the intensity, duration and frequency of their worries and anxiety may be well out of proportion with the actual circumstances or precipitating event. Given this awareness, they still have a tremendous difficulty in controlling or limiting this uncomfortable sensation. Constant worry or anxiety can impair an individual’s ability to concentrate and may affect their memory and even decision-making ability. These concerns also may lead to a loss of confidence over a period of time. Everyday activities such as socializing with others and maintaining relationships or even working consistently may become very difficult and sometimes even impossible.
This anxiety disorder may also produce an intense range of physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, headaches and unusual sweating. Many people who have this disorder do not realize that it is actually very treatable. They frequently assume that their intense feelings of anxiety are normal and are reluctant to seek treatment. Unfortunately, constant anxiety and worry can also lead to drug abuse and alcoholism. Some people do not seek treatment until they have had intense and prolonged physical discomfort for an extended period of time resulting in possibly alcoholism or drug abuse.
Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Although Generalized Anxiety Disorder is developed over a long period of time and has a chronic nature, it actually responds to treatment better than some other anxiety disorders such as Panic Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Also, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and or meditation have been found to relieve the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Venlafaxine (Effexor) and paroxetine (Paxil) have both been approved by the FDA to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some other classifications of medications are also used to treat this anxiety disorder including serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, tricyclics, and benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium).
As with many of the other anxiety disorders, prolonged symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder can sometimes lead to depression and drug or alcohol abuse. Also, some anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines should be limited to a short course of treatment to avoid dependence and tolerance and can be a relatively serious concern when used for more than a short period of time. Antidepressants and buspirone are frequently better choices because they do not cause dependence, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral treatment is also frequently used and is very effective for helping individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Psychologists and other mental health professionals are frequently able and willing to assist with individuals experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist
Inspired by the Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health after 50