Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Christopher Reist (Academic Psychiatrist, Co-Author of “Psychiatry”) gives expert video advice on: What are the common treatments for generalized anxiety disorder?; Is there anything I can do to avoid developing generalized anxiety disorder? and more...
What is an "anxiety disorder"?
Anxiety disorders refer to a collection of mental illnesses where anxiety is the predominant symptom. Anxiety disorders include: post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and specific phobia.
What is "Generalized Anxiety Disorder"?
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is also referred in short hand as GAD, and it's really characterised by excessive or out-of-control worry. This worry really gets to the point of interfering with a person's attention to tasks at hand, and when that happens, it starts to interfere with ordinary functioning. People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder tend to worry about a lot of ordinary things like finances, their health, or their job performance, but their worry could also include even more trivial things like whether they kept an appointment, or just the typical household things like whether or not the car's repaired properly, and that kind of thing. People with GAD know that their worry is excessive, but despite this, they really just can't do anything about it. Sometimes it's hard to really imagine what this is like, but one way I think everybody can relate to it is by thinking of that experience that when you see the flashing lights of a police car in the rear-view mirror. You feel that rush of tension and apprehension. People with GAD tell me that that's what they experience day in and day out.
What are the signs of generalized anxiety disorder?
The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include: muscle fatigue, irritability, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. There are also some physical symptoms that can go along with generalized anxiety disorder and this can include: sweaty palms, muscle tension, some increased dry mouth or shortness of breath.
What are the most common causes of generalized anxiety disorder?
The causes of generalised anxiety disorder are really not known; it's not genetic. Physiology explains that the brain's adrenaline is involved.
What are the most common dangers associated with generalized anxiety disorder?
The danger of generalized anxiety disorder or other mental illnesses is incapacitation; when the worry is so out of control that you can't focus on things. It really distracts you from the tasks at hand. So, if you're trying to get a job done or you're trying to function in a social situation, and the anxiety is so severe, this becomes very difficult. There are other dangers such as substance abuse; if a person with GAD starts to use alcohol or other sedatives to deal with their anxiety.
How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?
The diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder starts with a psychiatric examination in which data and information is collected about the present condition, as well as past history and family history. The psychiatrist then makes a list, which we call a differential diagnosis, of all possible things that could explain these symptoms. It's important then to rule these out one by one. One of the important categories, especially in generalized anxiety disorder, is to rule out is other medical conditions that can cause anxiety symptoms. This would include problems with your heart, such as cardiac arrhythmias. Other anxiety-causing illnesses include metabolic conditions, such as hyper- or hypo-thyroidism, hypoglycemia and a variety of others. Once these have been ruled out by either tests or an exam, then you can arrive at the proper diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.
What are the common treatments for generalized anxiety disorder?
The common treatments for generalised anxiety disorder include pharmacotherapy, which is treatment with medications. These medications typically involve anti-depressants, and most often the serotonin-reuptake inhibitors like fluoxetine or citalopram. Psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapies, can also be very useful in helping with dealing with the symptoms. There are other things that could be done in terms of lifestyle, such as avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate, and other things that are known to amp up your system. It is as important to get treatment for generalised anxiety disorder as other mental illnesses; psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have a lot of options available to help people.
Who is most at risk for developing generalized anxiety disorder?
For generalized anxiety disorder, there are not specific risk factors. We do know that female sufferers outnumber male by approximately two to one. However, there is not a particular genetic history that we sometimes see with other disorders like panic disorder. Often, people with generalized anxiety disorder did have anxiety as children, but this is not always predictive.
Is there anything I can do to avoid developing generalized anxiety disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder as well as other mental disorders is difficult to prevent. We don't understand why they occur but it's not in the hands or control of the individual. Hopefully in the future we'll perhaps understand some of the genetic predispositions, at which point maybe we can develop interventions.