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Generalized Anxiety Disorder Overview

Hello and welcome! Today I will be discussing generalized anxiety disorder also known as GAD. I chose this topic because anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting nearly 40 million adults between the ages of 18-54. And approximately 3% of the population is affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) specifically. Women are affected more than men, with prevalence rates being lowest in older adults. Anxiety disorders also affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. That is why early detection is crucial.

So we will discuss what GAD is and how it feels...

Worrying is a universal experience we all have, but when is it excessive?

Worry is a thought process, usually about future events in a negative light. People with GAD worry excessively about activities and situations that revolve around everyday life such as family, money, health and work. This worry is difficult to control, and suffers often anticipate disasters occurring within these domains.

GAD suffers may have difficulty relaxing, concentrating, falling or staying asleep. They also may suffer from physical side effects due their extreme anxiety including: headaches, restlessness, muscle tension, trembling, irritability, nausea, hot flashes and fatigue.

This creates a feeling anxiousnous, consist sense of dread, tiredness, and living in tension. GAD affects both the body and brain. The prefrontal cortex visualizes everything that can go wrong and has a direct connection to the amygdala which leads to cortisol being released causing the physical effects.

Worry often begins with a trigger, which leads to “what if” questioning and the same thoughts get looped or lead to other what if questions, creating more worry. The emotional outcome is anxiety. This process throughout the day leads to exhaustion mentally and physically.

What keeps the worrying going?

Not recognizing the worry, ineffective worry management techniques, consistent uncertainty. To avoid uncertainty they may avoid certain things. People who tend to worry a lot tend to not engage in problem solving, this is due to negative problem orientation. The avoidance of problems is going to lead to the problem getting bigger and bigger leading to the belief that problems are terrible things reinforcing the negative problem orientation. So you can see how the cycle repeats itself. People with GAD will also often worry about that problems that don’t currently exist.

Those who suffer from GAD may be reluctant to participate in treatment. In the early stages of treatment empathy and information gathering should be the focus, and the counselor should aim to create a warm, accepting and supportive environment. A thorough evaluation of the clients worry should be conducted, as well as the mention of any comorbid disorders than may affect treatment.

So what to do? Relief techniques for GAD

It’s important to embrace uncertainty, take “risks”, don’t procrastinate, speak your mind, do new things, go with the flow more often without having to know exactly what’s going to happen, be okay with the wait and see, think if I were more tolerant of uncertainty what would I do in this situation? This question can shift how you orientate yourself with uncertainty. Worrying does not solve problems, motivate you, make you a better person, prevent bad things from happening or prepare you for anything. It is a series of thoughts about bad things that may happen. Recognize problems early on, normalize problems and look at problems as an opportunity. It is also important to think through your worries and do not suppress them, as suppressing emotions is never beneficial. Simply acknowledge the emotions “okay this is what I am feeling now” but do not engage in future catastrophic thinking.

Our modern world is so full of stress, which can trigger anxiety. GAD symptoms often return, clients should be educated on techniques to implement for prevention, and coping strategies to utilize as needed to manage stress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and relaxation exercises appear to be the most effective in treating GAD. Mindfulness is believed to promote good health, and many studies have associated mindfulness with decreases in depression and anxiety as well as improvement of emotional control.

Mindfulness and CBT take on the prefrontal cortex and examine our interpretations, if you are able to change your thinking, your behavior will change. Calming the catastrophic thinking will decreases the physical side effects created by the amygdala. I always like to think of the body and mind in a holistic matter and feel those that suffer from GAD may benefit from regular exercise.

I think anxiety is an important topic to discuss as so many are affected by it and as mentioned above there are techniques which can be utilized to managed anxiety. I will be touching more on this subject in post to come!

Just Breathe,