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Generalized Anxiety Disorder by Margaret Klass

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that affects 6.8 million Americans or 3.1% of the population, making it a prevalent condition in today’s society. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD for short, can be defined as unrelenting, excessive and irrational feelings of worry and anxiety over day-to-day activities. Individuals who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder find it difficult to cope with everyday stresses, no matter how trivial they may seem to others. Even when aware that their worries are causeless or unnecessary, people with GAD have a tough time managing their anxiety. Simply making it through the day can be an uphill battle for people who suffer from GAD because they are so wrought with anxiety over common concerns like paying bills, dealing with relationship issues, or worrying minor health maladies.

There is no exact known cause for Generalized Anxiety disorder but many theories suggest that the disorder is genetic or caused by one’s environment, background or stressful life experiences. Anyone can develop generalized anxiety disorder at any time in life, but is most commonly diagnosed between teenage and middle-aged years. The disorder is also more prevalent in women than in men. Some of the symptoms of GAD are: constant worrisome or panicky thoughts, being conscious of an exaggerated sense of anxiety but unable to control it, an inability to relax or concentrate, muscle tension and body aches, fatigue, problems with sleeping, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.

The good news for GAD sufferers is that it is a treatable disorder and many individuals find that they are able to cope with their anxiety with proper treatment. When diagnosing an anxiety disorder, medical professionals should first perform a physical exam to rule out potential physical conditions that could be causing the anxiety. Once it is determined that extreme anxiety is its own root cause, a medical provider will usually prescribe medication and refer the patient to a mental health professional.

People with generalized anxiety disorder have a vast array of treatments available to them, including pharamacological therapy, psychotherapy, and alternative therapies. These therapies can be used alone or in conjunction with each other, the rate of success of the therapy just depends on the individual and their needs. It is very important for patients to discuss the treatment options that will best suit them with their medical provider.

When it comes to pharmacological therapy, most medical professionals will prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Anti-depressants, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIS for short), are effective long term in treating anxiety by increasing the serotonin in the brain and elevating the patient’s mood and sense of well-being. Anti-anxiety medications, known as benzodiazepines, are considered a very effective short-term therapy for anxiety because they will induce relaxation and reduce muscle tension and other physical symptoms. They do tend to become addictive so they are not prescribed for long-term or daily treatment.
The most effective form of psychotherapy for treating an anxiety disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient is taught to identify and understand their negative or anxious thoughts and to retrain the brain to positively deal with such thoughts or to react to them differently. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective short-term treatment for anxiety and is usually most beneficial for patients when combined with medicine therapy.

Alternative treatments are also highly popular methods employed to treat anxiety disorders. They typically have no side effects and can be very useful when used in conjunction with their western medicine counterparts. The most popular alternative treatments for anxiety are yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques, exercise, massage therapy or acupuncture, maintaining a healthy diet and taking herbal and vitamin supplements- such as kava kava, valerian root and a vitamin B complex.

Ongoing treatment of generalized anxiety disorder relies on the patient and their medical provider to choose the best forms of treatment based on the patient’s needs and history. It is important to remember that generalized anxiety disorder is a serious and often overwhelming disorder and that the individuals who suffer from it should be treated with care and compassion.

Works Cited

Anxiety Disorders Association of America. ADAA 2010-2012. http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

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Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 8 Sept 2011. < http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/generalized-anxiety-disorder/DS00502>.

National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Health (NIH). 12 Dec. 2011. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad-when-worry-gets-out-of-control.shtml.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. 11 April 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001915/



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