Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental disorder in which a person is often worried or anxious about many things and finds it hard to control this anxiety.
The cause of GAD is unknown. Genes may play a role. Stress may also contribute to the development of GAD.
GAD is a common condition. Anyone can develop this disorder, even children. GAD occurs more often in women than in men.
The main symptom is frequent worry or tension for at least 6 months, even when there is little or no clear cause. Worries seem to float from one problem to another. Problems may involve family, other relationships, work, school, money, and health.
Even when aware that worries or fears are stronger than appropriate for the situation, a person with GAD still has difficulty controlling them.
Other symptoms of GAD include:
· Problems concentrating
· Problems falling or staying asleep, or sleep that is restless and unsatisfying
· Restlessness when awake
The person may also have other physical symptoms. These can include muscle tension, upset stomach, sweating, or difficulty breathing.
How well a person does depends on how severe the condition is. In some cases, GAD is long-term and is difficult to treat. Most people, though, get better with medicine and/or talk therapy.
The goal of treatment is to help you feel better and function well in daily life. Talk therapy or medicine alone can be helpful. Sometimes, a combination of these may work best.
Many types of talk therapy may be helpful for GAD. One common and effective talk therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you understand the relationship between your thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms.
Often CBT involves a set number of visits. During CBT you can learn how to:
- Understand and gain control of distorted views of stressors, such as other people's behavior or life events.
- Recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts to help you feel more in control.
- Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur.
- Avoid thinking that minor problems will develop into terrible ones.
Other types of talk therapy may also be helpful in managing symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Certain medicines, usually used to treat depression, may be very helpful for this disorder. They work by preventing your symptoms or making them less severe.
Other than taking medicine and going to therapy, you can help yourself get better by:
- Reducing caffeine
- Not using street drugs or large amounts of alcohol
- Exercising, getting enough rest, and eating healthy foods
You can ease the stress of having GAD by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone. Support groups are usually not a good substitute for talk therapy or taking medicine, but can be a helpful addition.