Do you constantly feel stressed out or spend most of your days and nights in a continual state of worry? Are you unable to take a day off or relax without worrying about all the other things in life that must be immediately tended to? Do you lay awake in bed at night making mental lists of everything that must be done or of everything you feel you haven’t done well enough? If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you might be suffering from a condition known as generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic and often disabling disorder that is associated with uncontrollable worry and tension. The vicious cycle of anxiety and worry interferes with relationships, careers, and education, and often leads to depression. This disorder is much more than the normal worry and anxiety that everyone experiences from time to time, and can be crippling in its severity. GAD is unlikely to disappear without proper treatment, and often worsens over time.
Physical manifestations of generalized anxiety disorder often include headaches, trembling, fatigue, irritability, frustration, muscle tension and aches, and an inability to concentrate. Sleep disturbances may also occur, and the majority of people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder first visit their doctor for help with insomnia or headaches. Individuals suffering from this disorder may appear to be always tense and unable to relax, or may startle more easily than others. Often they might seem to be constantly moving or fidgeting, unable to sit comfortably for any length of time without worrying about something else than needs to be done.
An estimated four million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Research suggests that GAD may run in families, and it may also grow worse during times of stress. Symptoms can begin at any age, but GAD normally appears earlier than the other anxiety disorders, often beginning in childhood.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder vary, but generally include many of the following:
1) Feeling tense, restless, keyed up, or edgy
2) Becoming tired, fatigued, or worn out very easily
3) Having difficulty concentrating or remembering even simple, daily things
4) Feeling irritable, crabby, or moody
5) Having tense or sore muscles or body aches, commonly in the back and neck
6) Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or a feeling of not being rested
7) Chest pains, heart palpitations, rapid pulse, a choking or suffocating sensation
8) Abdominal pains or indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, constipation
9) Abnormal or irregular menstrual bleeding
10) Problems with sexual function or desire
11) Tingling in the arms and legs, chills, sweating, hot flashes
Treatment of generalized anxiety disorder can bring an end to the above symptoms, and finally allow you to relax and enjoy life again. Medications such as Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax often bring quick relief from the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. They are generally used on a short term basis while waiting for other medications, such as antidepressants, to begin working, as addiction and tolerance are possible. Antidepressants can be useful in managing anxiety and in treating the depression that often accompanies it. The SSRIs are the most common antidepressants used to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
There are a number of different psychotherapy techniques available to treat GAD, including Applied relaxation, Biofeedback, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some may be more effective for certain individuals, and all can be used with or without the addition of medications.