Feelings of fear and anxiety are normal. But when anxiety gets out of hand and every day feels overwhelming, another issue may be at play. Many people throughout the world suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. This mental health issue can make getting through day-to-day life difficult. Getting the proper help for generalized anxiety disorder can help you get past your fear and worry through therapy and medical intervention.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Individuals who find themselves experiencing high levels of anxiety over a prolonged period of time may actually have a condition known as generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder causes sufferers to worry on a consistent basis. They are unable to control their worry, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. Other mental health problems, like depression, can occur in conjunction with generalized anxiety disorder.
Many of those with generalized anxiety disorder suffer unknowingly, thinking that their feelings of worry are normal or just a part of who they are. Talking to a healthcare provider can help you determine if your anxiousness is normal or not. When anxiety and worry happen most days over a long period of time (usually over six months), generalized anxiety disorder may be at play.
There are a variety of different topics that you may find yourself worrying about. Finances and workplace worries are very common among generalized anxiety disorder sufferers, along with worries about health and family problems. Dealing with high levels of anxiety can leave you always fearing the worst when it comes to a given situation, which can make leading a normal life difficult.
What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder occurs when a person is unable to properly cope with their internal stress levels. This causes intense feelings of worry and can affect a person’s day-to-day life. This condition has been shown to run in families, though some members may not suffer from the disorder.
Research has shown that several parts of the brain play important roles in controlling fear and anxiety levels. Further study of these parts of the brain may help researchers better understand how to treat issues like generalized anxiety disorder.
Experiencing traumatic events or living within a high-stress environment may put you at a higher risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may also occur as a result of substance abuse or as a side effect of some medications. Medical conditions that increase the levels of certain hormones present in the body, like hyperthyroidism, may make the body’s response to stress more excitable, causing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Chronic illnesses may also cause generalized anxiety disorder, as these illnesses cause considerable stress to the body.
Who is at Risk of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
There are a number of risk factors for developing generalized anxiety disorder. Those who have a family history of the disorder are particularly likely to develop it. Women also tend to develop the disorder more often than men, leading researchers to believe generalized anxiety disorder may be linked to hormones and their influence on the brain.
Substance abuse issues like drug or alcohol addiction have the potential to increase the risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder. Certain chronic illnesses can also have an influence on your likelihood of developing the disorder.
A history of stress can greatly increase your risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder. For example, experiencing continuous physical or emotional trauma, living with poverty, and experiencing childhood abuse or neglect may increase your risk of Generalized anxiety disorder. Other traumatic events later in life, like being widowed or going through a divorce, can increase the risk of developing the disorder, as well as going through life with a lower education level than others.
While none of these risk factors guarantee a person will develop generalized anxiety disorder, the presence of multiple different risk factors can greatly increase the chances of developing the disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
There are many different symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder that you may encounter. Symptoms may be physical and psychological and can differ from person to person.
Some of the physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include:
- Problems with sleep, including an inability to fall or stay asleep
- Trembling or shaking
- Muscle twitches
- Muscles feeling tense or sore
- Hot flashes or sweating
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Having trouble breathing
- Stomach issues like nausea
- Frequent urination
- Instances of fatigue
- Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
Some of the psychological symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include:
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling unable to relax
- Being easily startled
The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may seem similar to those of other mental health issues. Because symptoms can be similar, contacting a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis is important.
While symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder most commonly begin during childhood or adolescence, the development of the disorder may take place in adulthood in some individuals.
Getting Help for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The first step toward receiving help for generalized anxiety disorder is getting a proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional. A doctor or psychiatrist can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are, in fact, related to generalized anxiety disorder or if they are a result of a different issue. After determining the cause of your anxiety, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that you are comfortable with.
When determining what type of treatment is appropriate for you, your doctor will consider your overall health and the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder you display.
Treatment programs will vary. When it comes to severe cases of generalized anxiety disorder, medication may be prescribed to help lessen your symptoms, though most treatment focuses on therapy programs that can help, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help reduce the severity of symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. This type of therapy teaches clients how to focus on their negative thought patterns in order to change them in a positive way. By addressing the thought processes that result in anxiety, clients can work on stopping their feelings of worry and recognizing when they are engaging in negative thought patterns. CBT also helps clients utilize tools like journaling to work through their feelings and explore new skills and behaviors that are desirable when it comes to overcoming anxiety. The longer you practice positive coping skills and behavior changes, the less power your worry and anxiety will have over you, allowing you to enjoy your daily life without feeling constantly bogged down and overwhelmed.
Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Properly addressing mental health issues like generalized anxiety disorder is important when it comes to living a regular life. Feelings of anxiety can hold you back from important experiences and things you want to do. You can begin treatment for generalized anxiety disorder by consulting with a healthcare professional and working to overcome negative and worrisome thoughts. Treatments like CBT and medical intervention can help transform your thoughts and lessen your anxious feelings, allowing you to live life to the fullest without fear holding you back.