Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and unrealistic worry about multiple life areas. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry, and may experience restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and disturbed sleep as a result. Common areas of worry include job responsibilities or performance, personal finances, health of family members, children’s safety, and daily issues (e.g., chores, household repairs). GAD may also result in physical symptoms, such as — dry mouth, nausea or diarrhea, headache, restless leg syndrome, cold hands, sweating, or a “lump in the throat” feeling.
GAD affects as much as 5% of the U.S. population, and appears more common in women than men. Although, the average age of onset for GAD can vary considerable, 50% of sufferers will be afflicted by adolescence. GAD tends to be a chronic condition with a fluctuating course, unless treated properly. The cause of GAD is unknown, although many feel an underlying biological mechanism is involved.
Certain anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications have been found to be helpful in reducing the symptoms of GAD. Many feel that the best course of medication treatment for GAD would be more of an intermittent strategy versus a continuous long term use method. The medications themselves are rarely enough, and in most cases should be used in combination with therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in reducing GAD symptoms as well. This teaching model trains individuals in skills found to be effective in managing worry and anxiety, and may include worry monitoring, respiratory control (i.e., slow, controlled breathing), cognitive restructuring (i.e., identify and correct errors in thought), progressive deep muscle relaxation, and possibly in vivo exposure (i.e., exposure to feared situations). Success rates of roughly 75% have been found using CBT methods. For some GAD sufferers the most effective and efficient form of treatment maybe the combination of medications and CBT.