Experiencing anxiety from time to time is normal. Worrying about things like health, money, or family problems is common. But, when is worrying not normal?
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry—even when there is little or no reason to worry. Understanding the differences between normal anxiety and GAD can be complex. The first step in knowing if your anxiety is normal is by gaining a deeper understanding of GAD.
What are the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 6.8 million adults have GAD. People with GAD find it difficult to control their worry and do not stay focused on daily tasks.
The common symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:
- lack of concentration
- muscle tension
- sleep difficulties
What Are the Common Risk Factors for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
GAD can begin at any age, but children to middle-age adults are the most affected. Also, women are twice as likely to have GAD. The exact cause of GAD is unknown. But, evidence shows that biological factors, family background, strained economic resources and stressful life experiences are contributing factors.
Why Do People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Worry So Much?
A 2010 research project conducted by Stanford University found that individuals with GAD suffer from abnormalities in the way their brains control negative emotions. The study discovered a dysfunctional relationship between the brain circuitry and the amygdala; a pair of almond-sized bundles of nerve fibers in the middle of the brain that deal with fear, emotion, and memory.
This dysfunction reduces communications and connection between the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the pregenual anterior cingulate and the amygdala and is the core reasoning behind why people with GAD experience intense anxiety. This weak connection results in the severe anticipatory anxiety and worry that is the hallmark of GAD, because the ACC is unable to tell the amygdala to “calm-down.”
How Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treated?
Lifestyle adjustments are an important step to reduce worry. The lifestyle changes include diet, exercise, relaxation and improving communication with friends and family.
Psychotherapy is also a significant step in treating GAD. Learning how to manage the condition is critical. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps the person with GAD recognize thoughts that start the anxiety and suggest techniques that change the associated responses. Controlling how you react to the thoughts reduces the feelings of helplessness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, and it should be the first step in managing GAD. But, sometimes it is not enough. Anti-anxiety medication in combination with psychotherapy can be effective in treating GAD. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medication and dose for you.
Overcoming GAD takes time and commitment. Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge specialize in treating people with General Anxiety Disorder. Click below to schedule a consultation.