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Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder

anxiety disorder

Medically reviewed by Dr. Riaz Ali Shah.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease and worry that every person has experienced at least once in their lifetime. It’s a normal human emotion that is supposed to be there to prepare us for stressful situations. But, when the worrying gets out of hands and is coming in the way of your daily life activities, that’s when it becomes a problem, and often a diagnosed anxiety disorder. There are many forms of anxiety, but the one type that is very common and can make your everyday life absolute hell is the generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. To find out how this normal emotion can turn into a disorder, please keep reading.

How does GAD present itself?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when someone consistently faces difficulty controlling their dread or worries for at least six months and has at least three symptoms associated with GAD. These symptoms include:

  • Excessive and persistent worry about various things, even when there doesn’t seem to be any reason
  • Worrying about things that are unrealistic and out of proportion
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Trembling, sweaty hands
  • Muscle tension and unexplainable aches and pains
  • Having a low tolerance threshold regarding uncertainty, often trying to control or plan out situations

GAD sufferers are able to function socially with treatment or when their levels of anxiety are mild to moderate. They can also be employed gainfully and enjoy meaningful and full lives. That being said, the disorder may cause them to avoid certain situations, or to prevent them from taking fullest advantage of the opportunities like promotions, travel or social situations. Severe anxiety can even lead to trouble working on simple everyday tasks.

Who does GAD affect?

According to a report by Aga Khan University, in Pakistan, the mean overall prevalence of anxiety based on community samples was 33.62%, with a point prevalence of 45.5 % in women and 21.7% in men. Women are clearly at twice the risk for GAD as men. While it is not known what the exact cause of the disorder is, research shows that life experiences, family background and biological factors play a role.

GAD develops gradually across an individual’s lifecycle, but the risk tends to highest between childhood and middle-age.

How is GAD Treated?

There is a variety of available treatment options. Therapy is a good place to start. CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is a well-researched treatment option which specifically targets the behaviors, physical symptoms, and thoughts that typify GAD, such as avoidance behaviors and over-planning. Acceptance Commitment Therapy and mindfulness are also known to bring about positive results.

While the approaches may be different, every kind of therapy helps sufferers alter how they relate to their symptoms. Most importantly, therapy helps them understand the inherent nature of anxiety, and to feel less fear of its very presence. This helps them make decisions and choices free of the existence of anxiety.

In certain cases, medication also helps. Patients either will usually use SSRIs (anti-anxiety medication), by themselves, or combined with therapy.

Alternative treatments like exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques, and medication can also form part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

The most important thing to do if you are trying help a loved one diagnosed with anxiety is to educate yourself. Try to learn more about the kind of anxiety they have. Yes, understanding might take some time but you will surely get there. There are many different ways to help someone with anxiety, by exercising with them or having deep and emotional talks while letting them know that you are there for them. Try to experiment and see what helps them be at peace. Remember, anxiety is not something that goes within seconds. It stays, but one can try to cope with it so that it does not get in their everyday way of living!

Guest Post Credit: Asma Qadri



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