Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Facts to Know:
- Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders, affecting approximately 5% of people over their lifetime.
- Generalized anxiety disorders can manifest physical symptoms like muscle tension, stomach upset, and physical pain.
- Generalized anxiety disorder is very treatable with therapy and/or medication.
What is generalized anxiety disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities. Adults with generalized anxiety disorder may worry about job responsibilities, the physical health of themselves and/or loved ones, financial obligations, and others. The focus of worry in children with generalized anxiety disorder tends to be on their abilities and their performance across various activities. While worrying is a normal experience, people who have generalized anxiety disorder typically experience worry as being difficult to control and as interfering with their daily functioning.
We do not know the exact cause of anxiety disorders, genetics play some roles as research shows that having a family member with significant anxiety raises the risk for anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders may also be brought on or worsened by stressful life events.
Generally, the following symptoms are present for most of the day for 6 months or longer.
- Excessive anxiety or worry occurring more days than not about a number of events or activities (i.e. work or school performance)
- The worry is difficult to control
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless sleep
Generalized anxiety disorder is best diagnosed by a mental health professional or physician combining a thorough interview and completion of objective measures that consider symptoms, the individual’s subjective experience, environmental factors, family history, and the individual’s level of functioning.
At ColumbiaDoctors, we provide the full array of treatments for anxiety disorders. Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist who might be a good fit.
A specific form of psychotherapy called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is considered the front-line therapy option for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in both adults and children, and has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety symptoms for the majority of patients. CBT provides education about anxiety and teaches individuals to more effectively identify and manage anxiety. CBT for anxiety also typically involves exposure therapy, in which individuals gradually face feared or avoided situations under the guidance of their therapist. Other forms of psychotherapy have also been proven to be effective for generalized anxiety disorder. In many cases, generalized anxiety disorder can be treated with therapy alone.
Medication may be helpful in treating anxiety symptoms. A family of medications known as SSRIs is the front-line medication option for both adults and children. A psychiatrist or nurse practitioner can prescribe these medications. SSRI medications have few side effects and are helpful in reliving anxiety symptoms in the majority of patients.
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