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Do you know what generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is? Have you been abnormally moody or frantic for no apparent reason? Are you constantly waiting for a disaster to strike? Do you find yourself excessively worrying about everyday things, some of which are entirely out of your control? Are you frequently stressed even when there is nothing to stress about?
Have you found falling asleep, concentrating, keeping your composure, and maintaining healthy, long-lasting relationships increasingly difficult? Would you say that you encounter more bad days than good? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be experiencing symptoms of GAD.
Signs and Symptoms of GAD
Truth be told, occasional anxiety is a normal and very natural part of life that affects everyone in different ways. Many people may find themselves worrying about everyday situations or things, such as their health, finances, career, school, or family issues. However, if you have ever been diagnosed with GAD, you’re well aware that these problems are a lot more extensive than people may realize.
Unlike occasional anxiety, GAD is a mental health disorder that is typically generated by anxiety, fear, apprehension, and dread that can last up to months, sometimes years on end. If you have not yet spoken to a medical professional, you should do so; because these feelings can immensely interfere with your daily life, physical health, and emotional well-being and can be shown through:
- Hyper-vigilant or persistent worry
- Feeling restless, wound up, or on-edge
- Extreme irritability
- Sleep deprivation
- Being easily fatigued or started
- Loss of concentration or joy in everyday activities
- Frequent head, stomach, or unexplainable body aches
- High blood pressure or increased heart rate
- Shallow or uneven breathing
- Heightened sensitivity toward people, places, or things
- Muscle tension or frequent movements of the body, including trembling of the hands, legs, or feet
- Inability to relax
- Disorientation from family members and friends
- Dark, demented, or disorganized thoughts that are out of the norm
- Loss of self or self-control
- Lack of consistency
- Second-guessing yourself
- Questioning your ability to make informed decisions.
Treatment for GAD
The good news is GAD is one of the most common and readily treatable mental health conditions. Its symptoms can be alleviated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a research-supported type of “talk therapy” that is referred to as the gold standard for treating GAD. CBT teaches struggling individuals different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations to help them feel less anxious or worried.
Another treatment for GAD is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT takes a different approach to negative and seemingly unwanted thoughts by utilizing strategies such as mindfulness supported in the hopes of reducing discomfort, nervousness, and anxiety. Compared to CBT, this is a newer type of psychotherapy, so, unfortunately, there is fewer data available regarding its effectiveness.
However, everyone is different, so what might work for one patient might not work as we compared it to another. That’s why it’s essential to be proactive, weigh out all your options, and consider speaking to a medical professional to find the right treatment plan for you.
Possible Medications for GAD
Although therapeutic treatment methods like psychotherapy can often help, depending on an individual’s brain chemistry, it is also possible that symptoms may persist even with therapy. So, if you feel as though you might need a little extra help, a medical professional may recommend or prescribe medications, including:
- Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines.
Yes, SSRIs and SNRIs are commonly used to treat depression. However, they can also. However, alleviate the symptoms of GAD. They may take several weeks to start working. At the same time, like GAD, as well as other mental health disorders, these medications can also cause side effects, such as headaches, nausea, or trouble sleeping. Depending on the individual, these side effects are typically not severe, especially if a psychiatrist or clinician starts a patient off on a low dose before deciding to slowly increase it over time.
Like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or anti-anxiety sedative medications may also be used to treat severe forms of GAD. These medications can be very effective in rapidly decreasing anxiety. However, some people can build up a higher tolerance to and may need to up their dosage more frequently than those who take other, much less invasive anxiety medications. With this particular medication, because it is a sedative, some people can become dependent on them and, thus, start to abuse their power. Therefore, a medical professional may only prescribe benzodiazepines for brief periods of time if and when a patient needs them.
Other Helpful Resources and Tips for GAD
If you or a loved one are struggling with GAD, here are some helpful habits to help you along the way, such as:
- Show up/show support
- Be patient
- Know when to ask for help
- Educate yourself
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Cut out or moderate your caffeine and sugar intake
- Set daily goals
- Become more active within your community
- Join a support group
- Talk to someone you trust, i.e., a therapist, family member, friend, or significant other.
Managing the symptoms of GAD is, without question, a difficult and complex process and an uphill battle, but no one ever said you had to attempt the challenge alone. Here at Alter Behavioral Health, we are committed to helping you find a treatment plan that works best for you in this new journey toward living a much happier and healthier lifestyle. We make it our mission to address all your mental health needs by providing you with the care and attention you deserve. Through CBT and ACT, as well as other methods such as mindful meditation, group family, and family therapy, we offer what you need. For more information, call us today at (866) 691-4386.