Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) also commonly referred to as General Anxiety Disorder is a psychological disorder. It involves chronic, repeated episodes of anxiety. Morbid fear and dread are often accompanied by decreased functioning and major lifestyle adjustment and limitations.

Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder include:

* excessive anxiety interfering with many areas of life
* muscle tension
* shortness of breath
* excessive sweating
* palpitations
* stomach and bowel problems
* irritability
* startled reactions
* lightheadedness
* diarrhoea
* apprehension
* impatience
* feelings of imminent danger
* restlessness
* inability to relax
* difficulty concentrating
* trouble sleeping
* lack of enjoyment
* difficulty controlling worry

The anxiety disrupts many areas of life. Unlike other anxiety disorders, individuals with generalised anxiety disorder  do not avoid situations as a result of the disorder. However, the symptoms can still interfere with routine activities. Individuals with this disorder respond inaccurately to perceived dangers. They tend to pay attention to the negative details in a situation. They have little faith in their own ability to cope with their lives.

GAD typically begins in childhood or adolescence. It can also begin in adulthood. It is more common among women. Theories consider genetics and social factors to be important in the development of chronic anxiety.

GAD is not the result of a medical condition, medication or a substance use disorder. Psychosocial factors are thought to contribute to GAD.

Treatment of GAD involves managing the demands that cause the problems. Increasing the ability to cope with situations can help. This includes a support system and an individual’s coping skills. Reducing demands or expectations can help.

Anxiety-reducing techniques can be used. These include:

* relaxation exercises, such as meditation, self-hypnosis, breathing exercises.
* exercise.
* getting adequate sleep.
* dietary changes. These changes may include decreasing the use of caffeine, alcohol or other drugs known to produce anxiety.
* Counselling for specific problem areas, such as parenting skills, marital, family, career or academic issues may be helpful.
* Some individuals may benefit from systematic desensitisation for specific fears, gradually overcoming thier fear.
* It is often helpful to increase the persons support systems by providing assistance with childcare, housekeeping and household tasks.

Diagnosing an anxiety disorder is usually done by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist. Symptoms are reviewed with the individual. A complete medical and mental history will be conducted. It is important also to exclude physical cause. Lifestyle factors will be discussed. These include alcohol or drug use, stresses, recent life changes, medical illnesses, or relationship factors. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a person has to have had symptoms of GAD most days for the past six months.

A thorough evaluation should include questions about the issues and events that increase anxiety. These will include questions about type, quality, timing pattern, aggravating or triggering factors.
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The treatments for GAD are similar to the prevention methods listed above. A combination of lifestyle changes, stress reduction, relaxation techniques, counselling or medication may be effective. Cognitive behavioural therapy is useful.

Medications may be used to treat anxiety. Examples of these medications inlcude, antidepressants, such as sertraline, fluoxetine, or citalopram, and beta blockers, such as propranolol or atenolol may be used. Most people respond very well to treatment and are able to return to their daily activities after being treated with therapy and medication. Often, medication is given for a long time (1-2 years).