Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Causes and Diagnosis

Overview

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by exaggerated and persistent anxiety and worry about a number of different things. People with GAD, worry about common occurrences and situations with no obvious reasons. However, if people with mild to moderate anxiety level receive proper treatment, they can function socially, have full and meaningful lives, and be gainfully employed.

GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men.

Causes

The exact cause of GAD is not fully known, but a few factors appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics

Some research suggests that family history and possible child abuse play a part in increasing the likelihood for a person to develop GAD.

  • Environmental factors

Recent or prolonged exposure to stressful situations, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools may be reasons too.

  • Brain chemistry

GAD has been associated with abnormal functioning of certain nerve cell pathways that connect particular brain regions involved in thinking and emotion.

  • Substances

The use of and withdrawal from addictive substances can also worsen anxiety.

Symptoms

People with GAD don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.

Psychological and physical symptoms may include:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening
  • Inability to set aside or let go of worry
  • Inability to relax or feeling restless
  • Irritability, fatigue and exhaustion
  • Muscle tension
  • Repeated stomach aches or diarrhea
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Rapid heartbeat

Diagnosis

GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months.

The commonly used diagnostic ways are:

  • A psychological inquiry

Psychological questionnaires are used to help determine a diagnosis. Your symptoms and medical history are both criteria of assessment.

  • A physical exam

It intends to look for signs that your anxiety might be linked to medications or an underlying medical condition

  • Tests

An electrocardiogram (ECG), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) screening test, blood and urines tests are all available.

Treatment

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a step-by-step method that teaches you specific skills to directly manage your worries and helps you gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided.

  • Stress Management Techniques

Stress management techniques such as meditation and mindfulness have been proven effective in treating anxiety disorders.

  • Medications

The first line medication treatments include the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and nonerepinephrine reuptake inhibitor(SNRI) classes.Buspirone and Benzodiazepinesalso deserve equal considerations.

  • Lifestyle Remedies

Quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol and caffeine use can alleviate your anxiety symptoms.

Keywords: generalized anxiety disorder.


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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.