Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Have worries about your job, family or finances gotten out of control? Do you often find it difficult to stop ruminating about possible catastrophes which might befall you? If so, you could have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry which interferes with the activities of daily living. The anxiety is out of proportion with the actual threat posed by the situation, and has been described as "free floating," meaning that once the primary stressor is resolved, a secondary reason to worry will soon appear.

Rather than having high "peaks" of anxiety, such as in panic disorder, GAD can be seen as "idling high," or living in a chronically elevated state of worry and hyper-arousal. In general, sufferers are said to overestimate the threat posed by potential negative events and underestimate their own coping skills.

Some of the physical symptoms frequently associated with GAD are:

• Muscle tension
• Trembling
• Twitching
• Feeling shaky
• Muscle aches or soreness
• Sweating
• Nausea
• Diarrhea
• Exaggerated startle response
• Accelerated heart rate
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness

GAD is typically treated by a mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to address the worrying, and medication to address the physical symptoms of the disorder. CBT addresses problems in thinking, and may include the teaching of planning and relaxation skills. Common medications used to treat GAD are the benzodiazopines, such as Valium, Ativan, or Xanax, as well as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Buspirone, Zoloft, or Prozac. Research suggests both kinds of therapy are equally effective, and combining them improves their outcome.
Five percent of the adult population will experience GAD in their lifetime. Talk with your doctor if you suspect you may have this condition.