Someone who is suffering from generalized anxiety disorder may have been told that he/she is thinking too much. Or maybe they’ve been told to “lighten up” or to “take life as it comes.”
However, the fearful effects of this psychological disorder are beyond normal self control and need to be treated with therapy or medication.
When Worry Overwhelms
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 6.8 million Americans worry excessively about their careers, important relationships, money, family and health issues.
When a person worries excessively about mundane and everyday problems for at least six months, he or she may be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder affects twice as many women as men, comes on gradually, and can occur at any stage of life, though most often onset is between childhood and middle age.
There is evidence that genes play a role in the development of the illness. Physical symptoms include trouble falling or staying asleep, headaches, fatigue, difficulty swallowing, trembling, irritability, hot flashes, breathlessness, lightheadedness, nausea, sweating, twitching, muscle aches and muscle tension.
Sufferers startle easily, have difficulty concentrating and can’t relax. Many who have been diagnosed with GAD know their fears are irrational but unable to stop the tension that results from those fears.
The anxiety is often impossible to overcome without treatment and it’s often worse than the situation the person is worrying about. Fears also can be grossly out of proportion to the situation – a run-of-the-mill stomachache turns into a potential ulcer or a dinner party turns from an enjoyable get-together into a nightmare of choosing the perfect dish.
When GAD becomes too overwhelming, a person may call in sick to work, flake on friends and cancel scheduled engagements, then feel terrible about it, which in turn exacerbates symptoms.
People with a mild version of the disorder can foster social interaction in their lives as well as find a career. For people who suffer with a more severe version of the disorder, ordinary, everyday tasks are hard to accomplish, even if the person does not avoid situations because of the illness.
Treatment and Medication for GAD
Treatment for GAD is available and includes medicine or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Since GAD generally occurs with another anxiety disorder, depression or substance abuse, treatment for these conditions also must happen to find relief.
Often, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is necessary to control the anxiety. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers prescribed by a psychiatrist can be used to control physical symptoms while a patient receives therapy from a social worker or other counselor.
With treatment and time, GAD sufferers can overcome their condition and live normal and happy lives.
First Steps to Seeking Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
When a person feels he or she may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, the first step is to talk to the family doctor. He or she can diagnose the symptoms as being caused by anxiety, another ailment or both.
Once an anxiety problem is diagnosed, the next step is to see a mental health professional who is open to suggesting medication, if necessary.
Most insurance plans cover mental health services and, for those who don’t have insurance or are uncovered, the Health and Human Services division of their local government may offer psychological treatments on a sliding fee scale.