According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 5.7% of adults in the U.S. struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at some point. Most people experience worry in their day-to-day life, as it is a natural feeling. However, when it becomes such a big problem in your life that you no longer can think of anything except your worry, you may have GAD.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
GAD is persistent excessive fear or worries over normal and minor things in life. It can be tangible concepts such as finances and responsibilities and social concepts such as family and relationships. It can even be physical aspects such as objects and animals. If you feel fear and panic over typical, mundane things, it could be GAD. The specific fears and worries vary from person to person, but excessive worry to the point it prevents you from living a full and happy life is what ultimately defines GAD.
Individuals who struggle with GAD don’t know how to cope with their disorder healthily. GAD tends to develop slowly and can last from months to years, so it is important to receive treatment once you notice symptoms.
What Are the Signs of GAD?
Those with GAD may have trouble concentrating on anything except worrying, which dominates most of their thoughts and actions. Symptoms can be physical, such as:
- Excessive sweating or trembling
- Feeling weak
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Trouble relaxing enough to fall asleep
- Weight gain or loss
Mental symptoms deal mostly with:
- Feeling tense
- Feeling restless
- Feeling as though there is pending doom or danger
If you or a loved one experience one or more of these symptoms to the point it interferes with day-to-day life; they may have GAD.
What Causes GAD?
Many things can cause you to develop this disorder. GAD can be caused by genetic factors, such as family history or a genetic disorder. Sometimes, the environment is responsible, as abusive and chaotic homes can cause those living in those situations to develop GAD. Traumatic events and experiences can also cause GAD. Substance use disorder (SUD) can interact with your physical and mental status, and some substances are known to cause feelings of anxiety. Other mental health disorders, like depression, can cause you to develop GAD. No matter where one comes from or their social status, anyone can develop GAD.
How Is GAD Treated?
There are many ways to treat GAD. Since physical and emotional disorders can cause GAD, sometimes treatments include medications and therapy (usually psychotherapy).
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you how to build skills to cope with stress and manage the psychological symptoms of GAD.
- Talk Therapy: Talk therapy helps you understand the root of your GAD and work to overcome what triggers symptoms. Sometimes a therapist will work with a doctor to prescribe anti-anxiety medication, which will be used to help you manage your symptoms.
- Dual Diagnosis: Those who also struggle with SUD will be treated simultaneously with a dual diagnosis.
- Outpatient Treatment: You can choose to receive outpatient treatment, where you will stay at home and go to appointments with your healthcare provider for treatment. You may feel as though you need something like an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or a partial-hospitalization program (PHP) to help treat your disorder, which offers more support while still allowing you to stay at home.
- Residential Treatment: You may choose to stay in a residential treatment facility, where you can receive around-the-clock support and care. Because each person is unique, treatments are tailored to give you the best chance of achieving recovery.
How Do You Find Treatment for GAD?
If you or someone you love is experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should look for your local mental health treatment center. SAMSHA offers an anonymous search tool to find the nearest treatment center near you. Each facility will have an email or phone listed on their website for easy contact where you can ask any question you like.
There are no stupid questions when it comes to your mental health, and the person on the other end of the line will treat you with respect. Once you see a qualified mental health professional, they can help you take your next step in the treatment process.
With every day that passes, more research is being done, and more knowledge is being gained on GAD. With time and understanding, more awareness can be brought to this difficult disorder, and with that, encourage more people to begin their journey to recovery.
Many people struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at some point in their lives. More often than not, these people feel as though their lives are completely ruled by fear and worry and that there is no way to escape the constant feeling of dread.
At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, compassionate and caring staff are dedicated to helping you feel at peace again. Nobody deserves to feel like anxiety rules their life. At Acera Health, many treatment options are available to help you on your journey to recovery and provide the support needed to see you through it. Besides treatment, there are tools that can be taught to help you cope with the stressors in your life.
If you or someone you love is struggling with the symptoms of GAD, call (949) 647-4090 today to learn how to reclaim your life from fear and worry.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.