There are many forms of anxiety disorders – social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. – and one of the most common types of anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Symptoms and Effects of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
We all have worries about our daily lives, but people with generalized anxiety disorder (about 6.8 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health) obsess about their lives to the point that it actually impairs their functioning. They have difficulty eating, sleeping, performing sexually, or focusing on other areas of their life, such as work or school. They may do this even if there is no actual threat to their well-being. A generalized anxiety disorder patient cannot specifically identify what they fear will happen to their lives, and that itself may be a source of stress.
The NIMH lists more specific symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily startled
- Sleep problems
- Muscle aches
The specific and broad symptoms would need to be in place for at least six months for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder to be given.
Environmental Factors and Drug and Alcohol Abuse
As an anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder can be attributed to genetics and an imbalance in brain chemistry in most people, but this particular disorder could also be due to environmental factors. WebMD explains that traumatic or stressful events, like abuse, divorce, the death of a friend or family member, drastic life changes, etc. can lead to the development of generalized anxiety disorder. Certain lifestyle habits, like abusing drugs, alcohol, nicotine or caffeine, can contribute to high levels of stress that manifest as generalized anxiety disorder.
On that last point, PsychCentral points out that GAD “is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance,” meaning that drugs and alcohol do not immediately cause generalized anxiety disorder. However, one of the many negative effects of substance abuse is the development of severe anxiety in its users, which can exacerbate any pre-existing generalized anxiety disorder. For example, if the drugs or alcohol are consumed as a kind of self-medication in an attempt to control the user’s anxiety, any positive effects are short-lived, leading to more severe anxiety when the GAD symptoms return.
As with a number of other anxiety disorders, women are more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder than men, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This may be due to a combination of factors, such as hormonal differences between the genders, lifestyle differences, risk factors and the respective effects of medication that make women more susceptible to GAD.
Psychology Today points out a similar point of comparison with other anxiety disorders, that people with generalized anxiety disorder are often aware that what they are feeling is irrational and unwarranted; however, as with any true anxiety disorder, they cannot simply turn off their anxiety or control it at will. This frustration and helplessness can be a cause of stress and anxiety on its own.
Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorders
Treating generalized anxiety disorder involves mentally and medically addressing the patient’s chronic obsession that their life is teetering over the precipice. The standard ways of doing this are psychotherapy, which PsychCentral explains can include the teaching of relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy and cognitive and behavioral coping skills to counter the pervasive presence of GAD.
When the anxiety symptoms of GAD cause significant disruptions in the patient’s life, the careful administration of medication such as benzodiazepines is the favored method of pharmaceutical treatment. They are well known for their muscle relaxant properties, as well as their potent sedative effects, making them a popular choice of medication for generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be very difficult to live with, but there’s no reason to live with it – not when there is hope for treatment. At Black Bear Lodge, we want you to know that there’s no reason you have to suffer with GAD when we have trained mental health professionals who can help. Please give us a call today to find out how we can get you started on a path to a better, more balanced life.