4 Ways to Identify Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Yourself
All people are occasionally anxious and worried. Some people, however, experience anxiety to a degree that they are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). There may also be physical symptoms that accompany the emotional ones.
Symptoms of GAD
If anxiety has become a problem for you and you wonder if you may be experiencing GAD, symptoms to note include the following:
- Intensity – People who suffer from GAD generally feel a level of anxiety that is more intense than the situation would normally warrant. The strength of the anxiety may wax and wane. Sometimes people are able to carry on their normal activities, but sometimes the anxiety is intense enough to interfere with daily life. The anxiety is often strong enough that it interferes with other mental processes. Concentration may become difficult. The Mayo Clinic notes that people may feel that their minds go blank. Decision-making may be difficult both because of concentration difficulties and because of anxiety about making the wrong choice. The intensity of the anxiety can cause irritability. People with GAD tend to startle easily and have trouble relaxing.
- Duration – GAD is diagnosed when excessive worry about everyday events has lasted for at least six months. Although it is common for GAD to begin during adolescence or young adulthood, people may develop it at any age. It tends to develop slowly and grow over time. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes that the average age of onset is 31 years old. The worry about each individual concern may also persist longer than is normal. When people who experience GAD begin to worry about an issue, it is very difficult for them to let go of the obsessive thoughts about the topic and focus their minds on something else.
- Extent – People with GAD experience a wide range of concerns. Common worries concern health, relationships, money and job or school performance. People may also worry about many other things that are less likely to directly affect them such as the possibility of war or a natural disaster. They may worry about the safety of people they love, even absent any clear obvious danger. Sometimes people simply feel a free-floating sense of anxiety that does not seem to be tied to any one particular issue.
- Physical symptoms – The physical symptoms that may be part of GAD include insomnia, headaches, fatigue, muscle tension and pain, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, trembling, lightheadedness, breathlessness and hot flashes. The NIMH states that it is common for people to first visit a doctor for physical symptoms of the disease such as headaches and insomnia. They note that it can take some time for doctors to verify that the symptoms are not caused by another condition and to diagnosis GAD. In addition to other physical conditions, symptoms of GAD can mimic other mental health disorders as well such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and other types of anxiety. It is also possible for multiple physical and mental health conditions to co-exist.
Causes of GAD
The cause of GAD is not fully understood, but a number of factors may influence its development. The medical website WebMD notes that genetics may play a role with some studies suggesting that a family history of the disorder will increase an individual’s risk of developing it. They also note that the disease is associated with abnormal functioning of certain nerve cell pathways, which may not run efficiently. Factors related to personal history, such as trauma and stress, may also contribute to GAD.
GAD and substance abuse may inter-relate. Anxiety can lead to substance abuse, and substance abuse like to drugs such as clonazepam can contribute to anxiety. Almost every psychoactive substance can cause anxiety either as an intoxication effect or a withdrawal symptom. Anti-anxiety medications can themselves cause significant rebound anxiety when they are stopped.
Treatment for GAD
Treatment for GAD can involve medication, psychotherapy or both. Medications may include anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications may work quickly but are not generally advised for long-term use. Anti-depressant medication may take longer to work but are generally considered safer over the long term.
The most common type of psychotherapy for GAD is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This involves recognizing and evaluating beliefs and thoughts that lead to feelings and behaviors. Thoughts are examined for validity and discarded when they are not found to be true or helpful.
The best outcomes for people who suffer from both GAD and addiction to drugs like clonazepam are achieved when they are treated in a coordinated and integrated manner, preferably within the same treatment facility. If you are in need of quality integrated treatment, we can help you find it. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day and is staffed with knowledgeable and caring consultants who can answer your questions. They can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish at no cost or obligation. Call now, and find your recovery path.