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Generalized Anxiety Disorder - GAD Resources

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? GAD is commonly defined as; An anxiety neurosis or state characterized by an overall anxious mood occurring more days then not for at least six months and including such symptoms as jitteriness, sweating, feelings of catastrophe concerning one's family or self, and irritability.


Diagnosis Criteria:
  1. Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months.
  2. The individual finds it difficult or impossible to control the worry.
  3. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms:
    1. restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
    2. being easily fatigued
    3. difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
    4. irritability
    5. muscle tension
    6. sleep disturbance
  4. The focus of the anxiety and worry is not confined to features of a primary disorder, e.g., the anxiety or worry is not about having a Panic Attack (as in Panic Disorder), being embarrassed in public (as in Social Phobia), etc., and the anxiety and worry do not occur exclusively during Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  5. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  6. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism) and does not occur exclusively during a Mood Disorder, a Psychotic Disorder, or a Pervasive Developmental Disorder

About 4 million adult Americans suffer from GAD during the course of a year. It most often begins in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood. It is more common in women than in men.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is much more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It's chronic and fills one's day with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.

People with GAD can't seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.

People with GAD may feel lightheaded or out of breath. They also may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. Individuals with GAD seem unable to relax, and they may startle more easily than other people. They tend to have difficulty concentrating, too. Often, they have trouble falling or staying asleep.

What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder? The precise cause of GAD is not yet known. It is thought to possibly be dependent on several factors. These factors can include but are not limited to, genetics, a physiological chemical imbalance, and environmental stress.

Although GAD can exist on its own, it has been found that 90% of people who suffer from GAD may have preexisting conditions as well. These include:

  1. Depression
  2. Panic Disorder
  3. Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Some argue that these may be a result of anxiety not the cause, which came first the chicken or the egg?)

What is the Treatment for GAD? Most current recommendations include;

Counseling with a trained professional - the individual learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. This type of therapy helps limit distorted thinking by looking at worries more realistically.

Medication - The medications most often used to treat GAD are from a class of drugs called benzodiazepines Commonly refereed to as "tranquilizers". They work by decreasing the physical symptoms of GAD, such as muscle tension and restlessness. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Librium, Valium and Ativan.

Support Groups - Either in a controlled setting or on the internet, discussing your feelings is a great way to relieve stress.

Preventative Techniques:
While you may not be able to prevent Anxiety disorders completely, there are some steps to take to help reduce or eliminate the symptoms:

Stop or reduce your consumption of products that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can increase anxiety symptoms.

Exercise daily and eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Seek counseling and support after a traumatic or disturbing experience.

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External Website Resources:

WebMD - Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health

Mayo Clinic - Definition of General Anxiety Disorder

National Institute of Mental Health - General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Description

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Phych Forums - General Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Zone Forums & Chat Rooms

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