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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is

  • A – Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not, for at least six months, about a number of events or activities, such as work or school performance;
  • B – Difficulty controlling the worry;
  • C – The anxiety and worry are associated with three or more of the following symptoms:
    1. Restlessness or feeling on edge
    2. Being easily fatigued
    3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
    4. Irritability
    5. Muscle tension
    6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
  • D – The focus of the anxiety is not confined to worry about a panic attack, being embarrassed in public (social phobia), or being contaminated (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
  • E – Anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning

(Adapted from DSM-IV-TR-Revised)

In addition to the above symptoms, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may experience the following:

  • numbness or tingling sensations in their finger tips, toes or on the top of their head
  • feeling warm or hot
  • wobbliness
  • difficulties relaxing
  • thinking that something terrible is about to happen
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • heart palpitations
  • feeling unsteady
  • feeling scared
  • trembling
  • fears of losing control
  • difficulties breathing
  • sweating not due to the heat

Thoughts (cognitions) associated with anxiety often begin with “what if…?” The thoughts associated with anxiety are often

  • catastrophic expectations of the future, and
  • the sense that something terrible or bad is going to happen

Anxiety is associated with thoughts that involve

  • threat
  • danger
  • personal Vulnerability

Five percent of the population is likely to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder at some point in their life, and one percent of the population is likely to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder at some time in the course of any given 12-month period of time.

Anxiety is a “fight or flight” response and occurs as a result of the perception of danger, threat or vulnerability. Cognitive therapy teaches people to identify, evaluate and perhaps alter thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to the anxiety they are experiencing. Additionally, Generalized Anxiety Disorder responds well to relaxation training, which can include progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and relaxing imagery. A component of treatment involves exposure to events or internal experiences that may be creating anxiety. Antidepressant medication or anti anxiety medications may also be helpful in addressing Generalized Anxiety Disorders.

Without treatment, Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be chronic and persistent. Cognitive therapy, relaxation training and behavioral therapy have demonstrated in research studies to be very powerful and effective in the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be helpful in reducing symptoms and achieving a sense of safety, security and control.