Every day, people experience anxiety in some form or another (job, health, family, money). Many are able to cope and adjust to the different levels of stressors found within daily situations. However, there are people who are unable to successfully manage their anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is more than just day-to-day anxiety that people experience. It is a very common condition that causes constant excessive worry and fear in individuals. People oftentimes feel that it is beyond their control and do not know how to stop it. They perceive mild situations as catastrophic. Although generalized anxiety disorder is not debilitating, when anxiety levels are high many people find simple tasks to be difficult. Seeking help from a professional can provide people with the support and treatment needed.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a person is experiencing worry and angst for six months or longer. There are some common physical and psychological symptoms that people with GAD experience:
- Muscle tension
- Irritability/ edginess
- Restlessness/ difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of dread
These symptoms appear to be more prominent in those that have anxiety disorders when compared to others who have everyday normal worry. However, these symptoms do fluctuate throughout the day and stress can enhance the intensity levels of the anxiety.
Two Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
There are a variety of techniques that can be used to help reduce anxiety that is caused by the disorder. Self-soothing techniques are a great way to decrease the onset of anxiety, as well as seeking help from a professional.
Self- Soothing Techniques
People can turn to self-soothing techniques to help them cope when anxiety arises. Learning how to deal with anxiety productively is an excellent way to cope with worrisome thoughts. Understanding that uncertainty is a normal part of life and making efforts to challenge these feelings when they occur helps with training thought patterns. It sends messages to the brain that situations may not be as bad as the thoughts may warrant.
Relaxing is oftentimes difficult for people who suffer with GAD. However, learning relaxation techniques can be one of the best ways to help in the reduction of anxiety. When people are experiencing high levels of anxiety, the nervous system becomes reactive, causing people to become vulnerable to anxiety and stress. Using methods such as meditation and deep breathing strengthens the ability to relax and be calm. As a result, the nervous system will become less reactive allowing the body’s anxiety levels to slow down.
Many do not realize how their lifestyle can affect anxiety. Making positive lifestyle changes will reduce negative thoughts and feelings. Improving diet and exercise can have enormous effects on anxiety and mood. Eliminating elements such as caffeine and foods high in sodium and sugar is a great first step in eating healthy and taking care of the body. Another important factor in lifestyle changes is finding a positive support system. Turning to family and friends for help in coping with generalized anxiety disorder is beneficial for the mind, body, and soul.
For some, self-soothing techniques are not enough to help keep anxiety symptoms under control. If this is the case, people need to seek out therapy from a professional. Therapy is a key ingredient in the reduction of generalized anxiety disorder. Oftentimes, people will turn to medications as a way to cope with anxiety, but talking to a professional can be just as effective and safer.
Cognitive- behavioral therapy is extremely effective when dealing with generalized anxiety disorder. This type of therapy helps change distorted thoughts and feelings through a systematic, goal oriented approach. It helps people with GAD to make emotional and behavioral changes that allow them to cope with high levels of anxiety. Some components of cognitive- behavioral therapy are:
- Behavioral strategies that allow people to tackle fearful situations head on rather than avoiding them.
- Monitoring anxiety levels by discovering triggers that causes the attacks.
- Cognitive control strategies that help regulate and evaluate thinking patterns.
- Education about generalized anxiety disorder and its effects.
The challenges for individuals who are living with generalized anxiety disorder can be long-term. Seeking professional help, making a commitment to lifestyle changes, learning coping skills and relaxation techniques can help prevent serious anxiety attacks from occurring. Understanding the disorder is the first step in conquering anxiety.