Do you suffer from sleepless nights worrying about what the next day will bring? Do you worry too much that your kid will have a scraped arms and legs if you let them play in the park with the neighborhood kids? Or do you constantly worry that the next killer quake or tsunami will hit your city.
Some people are laid back, some people are worriers. But if you excessively worry about the littlest things of everyday life, you probably have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Often times, these are the people who constantly worry about money, their jobs, their health and everything else they can think of. The anxiety engulfs them so much that it can take over their whole lives.
It’s ok to worry, but how can you tell if it has become excessive? GAD, most of the time, goes beyond reason. When one fears that they are about to crash the car if he/she drives, or if one has excessive attention to staying safe or keeping loved ones safe; if you have difficulty in trusting others or if you have a sense of a foreshortened future, you might be suffering from this condition.
GAD is the most common anxiety disorder seen by most primary care doctors. In the US, about 4 million are estimated to be suffering from GAD, from the ages 18 – 54 but it can also happen to children. Panic and generalized anxiety occur in about 0.7% of children in any one-year period, up to 20% over the course of childhood.
Aside from chronic worrying, GAD may also manifest in physical symptoms such as:
- restlessness or feeling edgy,
- becoming tired easily,
- trouble concentrating,
- feeling as if the mind is going “blank,”
- mood swings or irritability,
- muscle tension and muscle spasm
- trouble falling or staying asleep or having sleep that is not restful
When uncontrolled, anxiety can become so intense to the level of having a panic attack, with symptoms of:
- palpitations,chest pain and tightness, or the feeling like one’s having a heart attack
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing;
- excessive sweating of the palms;
- nausea or other stomach upset;
- trembling or shaking;
- feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint;
- feelings of unreality or feeling detached from oneself
- fear of losing control or going insane;
- numbness or tingling sensations;
- feeling like one is choking
- feeling like one is dying
What causes generalized anxiety disorder?
No one knows the exact causes of GAD, but some psychologists believe it is rooted in a lack of stability during childhood and can further develop with life stressors such as health problems and family disagreements.
Is it curable?
GAD is not curable and it is not something people should think they could learn to live with. It can lead to other psychiatric problems like depression when unmanaged. Patients with this condition need help.
It can be treated with medications like antidepressants but drug treatment has not been proven to be very successful. Behavioral therapy includes analysis and evaluation of how an individual thinks of themselves and the world. Behaviour therapy is a method of changing the way we think. People with GAD seem to be lack problem solving skills and once they gains this skill, it gives them a greater feeling of controlling what is happening to them.
Relaxation methods and breathing control exercises may also help. Relaxing and pleasurable activities and physical exercises may also help in distracting themselves from their worries.
These methods, though, only render 50% chances of recovery. It is also a condition that may reappear in the future.