Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a disorder characterized by extreme and frequent anxiety about little things and everyday life, even if there is no cause for worry. Persons with GAD keep feeling that something bad is going to happen to them or to their loved ones, and this extreme worry often becomes disruptive to their life and to those around them.

Symptoms of GAD include: intense, ongoing anxiety and feeling of impending doom; a worry that is out of proportion of the problem; not being able to relax; physical tension and headaches; sweating and trembling; nausea and diarrhoea; insomnia; fatigue; frequent urination; depression; and anxiety attacks. It is common for persons with GAD to resort to alcohol, drugs or excessive caffeine consumption, but this only makes the symptoms worse.

It is estimated that up to 4 million Americans suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The exact cause of this condition is not known, but is probably a combination of genetics, brain biochemistry and environmental triggers. GAD tends to run in families, and you are more likely to suffer from it if a relative has or had GAD. Stressful events such as death of a loved one and a breakup can trigger GAD, as can the use or cessation of use of substances such as drugs and nicotine.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a serious medical condition and you should seek professional help if you frequently experience the symptoms described for GAD. Treatment will involve medication and behavioural therapy by a psychiatrist or psychologist. The most frequently used medications for GAD are benzodiazepines, which are often referred to as ‘tranquilizers’ because they will make the user feel calm and relax the muscles. Valium is perhaps the most popular of such medications. Antidepressants such as Prozac may also be used.

GAD sufferers are also taught relaxation and breathing exercises, and they are shown how to control or prevent an anxiety attack. This involves lifestyle modification (such as the avoidance of coffee and other high-caffeine foods and drinks), the adoption of a healthy diet and taking up exercise. Sauna, massages and warm baths can also help to relax the body and the mind. It is also important to avoid stressful situations and to find the time to relax and do activities which you enjoy doing.