– By Dr. Paul Rodriquez, Ph.D. –
Concerns are part of life for most people that are expressed as fears and worry periodically through day to day activities. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry all the time – about money, health, family, work or almost anything. Just the thought of getting through the day can trigger intense fears.
People with GAD think a lot about potential danger or disaster. They often look ahead, trying to make sure bad things don’t happen. People with GAD often make frequent safety checks to ensure things are ok which may lead to other possible diagnoses. For example, repeatedly call to see if a relative made it home from work safely while worrying excessively that something has gone wrong.
They also tend to:
- Feel restless, irritable and have trouble concentrating.
- Have muscle tension, fatigue, trembling, headaches, or other physical symptoms.
- Anticipate the worst, even though there is little reason to expect it.
People often don’t understand the symptoms, which can include heart palpitations, perspiring, trouble sleeping, and even tingling in the the extremities. Many people who suffer from anxiety or panic disorder will find themselves in the emergency room because they think they are having a medical emergency like a heart attack. The symptoms are intense and can be exacerbated by how the individual perceives the situation.
GAD can begin at any age, but it usually starts during childhood or adolescence, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Approximately twice as many woman as men are affected. This may be due to males’ efforts to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs to minimize symptoms or that males are less likely to seek treatment. Researchers are working to pinpoint the cause of GAD, they suspect genes may play a role.
The good news, people who are diagnosed with GAD by a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, generally experience considerable relief from their symptoms. Diagnosing the specific type of anxiety the person is experiencing is critical to determining the type of treatment options available.
Those individuals who suspect they are experiencing symptoms associated with GAD or related anxiety disorder should start by talking with their primary care physician (PCP) to rule out any medical explanation for their symptoms. Once their PCP rules out a physical cause, they will refer the patient to a licensed mental health professional for further treatment.
An effective treatment of choice for GAD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches the patient to change their thinking patterns associated with GAD while responding differently to situations that cause their anxiety. The behavioral component includes learning how to relax and respond to their symptoms employing techniques they discuss in therapy.
At Estar Counseling Services, Inc. we focus directly on the symptoms that are specifically related to the heightened state of anxiety. We work with the patient in a confidential setting to determine what is causing the anxiety and once this is accomplished it is easier to find ways to work through the anxiety.
Anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants may also be used in conjunction with talk therapy. It can take several weeks for the medications to take full-effect. If one medication is not effective, others may be tried.
A key to preventing and conquering anxiety is to properly learn to manage stress. The less stress we allow into our lives, the less likely we are to experience clinical anxiety.
Those that identify their stressors and find a way to relieve their stress are more likely to minimize the symptoms of their stress and subsequently their anxiety.
Easy ways to manage the stress in all of our lives include: limiting alcohol, getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating properly. Making time to do something enjoyable for ourselves is crucial to our emotional well-being.