- General Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worrying about daily life events.
- Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, medical conditions, brain chemistry, and comorbidities can cause GAD.
- GAD can have comorbidities, including eating disorders, depression, substance abuse, and panic disorder.
- Treatments include medication under doctor supervision, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and exposure therapy.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition characterized by consistent and excessive worrying and anxiety about everyday life circumstances. People with GAD often feel overwhelmed by everyday activities, are fearful of most future events, and have trouble controlling their worries. Living with GAD can be debilitating and hamper your ability to enjoy life. If you or someone you know suffers from GAD, it’s essential to understand this condition, its causes, symptoms, and possible treatment options.
Symptoms of GAD
The primary symptom of GAD is excessive worry or anxiousness, which is often irrational or excessive. This worry can become pervasive and cause extreme distress or anxiety even when there is no apparent reason to be distressed. GAD can also present physical symptoms such as muscle tension, trembling, irritability, difficulty sleeping, sweating, and gastrointestinal issues. It’s essential to take these symptoms seriously and to seek professional help if they persist or impair daily functioning.
Causes of GAD
There are various causes for GAD. Here are some reasons why it happens:
One of the most significant risk factors of GAD is a genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that anxiety disorders, including GAD, often run in families, indicating a genetic component to the disorder. You are more likely to develop GAD if you have a family history of anxiety disorders. However, genetics alone doesn’t guarantee that someone will develop GAD. Environmental factors also play a crucial role in the development of the disorder.
Environmental factors such as trauma, abuse, and stressful life events can trigger GAD in individuals with a genetic predisposition. People who have experienced traumatic events such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or violence are at higher risk of developing GAD. Additionally, people who have experienced significant life changes such as job loss, divorce, or the death of a loved one may develop GAD due to the stress and anxiety related to these situations.
Certain medical conditions can also contribute to the development of GAD. For example, people with chronic pain, heart disease, or respiratory disorders may experience anxiety due to medical conditions. Additionally, people with a history of substance abuse or dependence are at higher risk of developing GAD.
Another potential risk factor for GAD is an imbalance in brain chemistry. People with GAD may have an overactive amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response. This overactivity can lead to excessive worry and anxiety, even in situations that don’t warrant such a response.
GAD is comorbid with other mental disorders. Here are some of them:
Studies have shown that individuals with GAD are at a higher risk for developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Individuals may have difficulty coping with their anxiety, worry, or fear, leading to eating disorders as a coping mechanism. That’s why it’s important for people with anxiety to get eating disorder treatment to avoid these disorders. These treatments can also help deal with GAD in the long run.
Depression is the most common comorbidity that occurs with GAD. Both disorders share similar symptoms, including fatigue, irritability, and sleep disturbances. Depression and GAD exacerbate each other, leading to a negative spiral for individuals suffering from both. Each disorder requires a specific treatment plan, and it’s essential to receive proper therapy to manage symptoms effectively.
Individuals with GAD may use drugs or alcohol to cope with excessive worry and anxiety, leading to substance abuse comorbidity. Substance abuse often worsens GAD symptoms, and treatment can be complicated since managing both GAD and substance abuse simultaneously is essential.
Panic disorder is another comorbidity of GAD. Panic disorder causes an individual to have unexpected and intense episodes of fear that last for a short time. A panic attack is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking. The experience of a panic attack can be terrifying, and it’s common for individuals with GAD also to have panic disorder. Treatment for panic disorder usually includes medication and therapy.
There are various treatments for GAD, and finding the right one is essential. Here are some of the common treatments available:
Certain medications, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), can be helpful in managing GAD symptoms. These drugs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety. However, medications should always be taken under the supervision of a doctor to ensure safe and effective use.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common therapies to treat GAD. CBT helps individuals learn how their thoughts affect their feelings and behavior, allowing them to gain control of their anxiety. Other forms of therapy, such as psychotherapy and exposure therapy, can also be useful in managing GAD symptoms.
Anxiety is a normal part of life, but GAD can be debilitating. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatments can help you get the help you need to manage your anxiety and live a more fulfilling life. If you or someone you know suffers from GAD, seeking professional help for diagnosis and treatment options is vital.