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Generalized Anxiety Disorders Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions & More All you need to know

December 30, 2021

It is normal to have anxiety in stressful life but excessive anxiety and worry can influence the day-to-day work of the person.

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the commonest disorders of the nervous system. About 20% of adults are affected by generalized anxiety disorders every year.

Patients with a generalized anxiety disorder may feel fever, worry, and a constant feeling of overwhelming.

The patients are worried about their future, finance, family, and health in generalized anxiety disorder.

This multifocal worry is difficult to control and is often associated with non-specific psychological and physical symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders are similar to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and other types of mental disorders.

 The general prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder in children of age 18 years is between 5.7% to 8% but prevalence is as high among women as among men.

Generalized Anxiety Disorders Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

What Are The Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorders?

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder vary from person to person but there are some specific that are usually present in all patients are:

  • Continuous worry about the number of events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions of all worst-case scenario
  • Patients are unable to handle uncertainty
  • Patients are fear of making wrong decisions
  • Patients are unable to let go of worries
  • Patients are unable to relax and feel restless
  • Patients feel difficulty in concentrating

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Physical signs and symptoms include

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in sleeping and trouble sleeping
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting

Your anxiety and physical signs and symptoms can disturb your social and personal life.

Symptoms in Teenagers and Children

Symptoms in teenagers and children have similar worries as that of adults abut they may also have excessive worries about their performance at the school.

What Are The Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Like many other mental disorders, the cause of generalized anxiety arises from the interaction of biological and environmental factors. Some of the main causing factors of generalized anxiety disorders are

Genetic Factors:

According to some research family history of positive generalized anxiety disorders play an important in having the disease. It means that people with a family history of generalized anxiety disorder are more prevalent to generalized anxiety disorder.

There is no gene related to anxiety still discovered.

Brain Chemistry:

There is a certain nerve cell pathway that connects to the particular area of the brain that controls emotions. These pathways are connected through neurotransmitters.

If these particular pathways don’t work well this will lead to generalized anxiety disorder.

It is believed that serotonin and the nonadrenergic systems are the common pathways involved in anxiety. According to the latest research, low serotonin system activity and elevated noradrenergic system activity lead to anxiety.

Environmental Factors:

 There are certain environmental and social factors that can lead to generalized anxiety disorder. These factors include stressful events like:

  • Abuse
  • Death of the loved ones
  • Divorce
  • Changing job or school
  • Withdrawal from addictive substances like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

When to See a Doctor?

Anxiety occurs normally in a daily hectic routine. But you must visit your doctor if you noticed :

  • You feel that you are worrying too much and it affects your daily work, social, and private life.
  • You are depressed and have trouble sleeping, trouble eating, have other psychological and physical disabilities.
  • You have suicidal thoughts—seek emergency treatment. 

What Are The Risk Factors of Generalized anxiety disorder?

Women are more prone to anxiety disorder than men. There are some factors that increase the risk of generalized anxiety disorders:

  • Personality:

A person who has a loose temperament and avoids dangerous things in his life are more prone to generalized anxiety disorder than those who have a strong personality.

  • Family History:

People with a family history of generalized anxiety disorder are more prone to generalized anxiety disorder.

 There is no anxiety gene discovered yet but generalized anxiety disorders run in families.

  • Experience:

A person who has traumatic or negative experiences during childhood, a person who has a stressful life due to the death of loved ones or divorce, or is addicted to addiction drugs and now not using due to certain reasons, are more prone to generalized anxiety disorder than others who are living a normal life.

What Are The Complications of Generalized Anxiety Disorders?

If the generalized anxiety disorder is left untreated it can lead to several other brain and physical complications that are dangerous for health.

Generalized anxiety disorder can:

  • Impair your ability to complete tasks on time and to do work more efficiently because of lack of concentration.
  • Increases the chances of having depression.
  • Drain your energy.
  • You are unable to focus on the task

Generalized anxiety disorder also leads to physical health complications like:

  • Irritable bowel disease and ulcer due to over secretion of HCL in the stomach—complications is depression
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Trouble sleeping and sometimes insomnia
  • Cardiac diseases

Along with generalized anxiety disorder, other mental health problems also occur that make the diagnosis of the disease more challenging. Some mental conditions that make the diagnosis difficult are:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic disorder
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Use of addiction drugs
  • Phobias
  • Social isolation
  • Impaired Quality of life.

All these mental health problems make the diagnosis challenging.

Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorders:

Diagnosis of any disease is important because, on the basis of diagnosis, the treatment plan is formulated. Moreover, it also helps to identify the cause of the disease.

Generalized anxiety disorder is simply diagnosed by asking questions about the past medical and psychiatric history. There is no specific lab test available for the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

Evidence indicates that rates of missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are high due to symptoms that are ascribed to the physical causes.

For the proper diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorders your mental health professional may:

  • Will ask questions about the medical and psychiatric history
  • Will do a physical examination to look for the signs that are linked to anxiety disorder
  • Will use the certain criteria that are mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

GAD–7 Screening tool is the confirmatory questionnaire for the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

GAD–7 Screening Tool

QuestionsNot at AllSeveral daysMore than half the daysNearly every Day
Feeling nervous or anxious0123
Unable to stop worrying0123
Worrying too much about different things0123
Restlessness0123
So restless that person is unable to sit still    
Feeling afraid as something awful is happening0123
Becoming easily annoyed0123

The total score of these 7 questions ranges from 0 to 21. Scores of 5, 10, and 15 represent mild, moderate, and severe anxiety respectively.

Diagnostic criteria formulated by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is as :

  • Anxiety that lasts for the last six months
  • If the patient feels difficulty in controlling the worry
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Unable to concentrate

What Are The Treatments of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

generalized anxiety disorders are treated by psychotherapy and by medications. Treatment decision is based on the symptoms of the generalized anxiety disorder.

Psychotherapy:

In psychotherapy, the therapist reduces the symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is very suitable for generalized anxiety disorder.

In this therapy, the patients are gradually exposed to the ancient provoking stimulants. In this method, the therapist focuses on teaching you the skills to cope with the worries and helps to reduce the anxiety.

Through this method, the therapist helps you to return to normal routine works that you have avoided because of anxiety.

Medications;

There are certain medicines available to reduce the symptoms related to generalized anxiety disorder. These medicines are not to cure the disease but to ease the symptoms.

Some medications that are used for generalized anxiety disorder are:

  • Antidepressants:

In antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are the first-line drugs for the treatment of anxiety disorder.

Generic drugs:

  • Escitalopram
  • Duloxetine
  • Venlafaxine
  • Paroxetine

The drugs are also available that are recommended by the doctors.

  • Buspirone:

Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medicine with less dependency than any other anti-anxiety medication. It belongs to the none benzodiazepines family with less sedating action.

  • Benzodiazepines:

It is a long-acting agent and is used to reduce the symptoms of acute anxiety disorder. It is a less recommended agent for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder because the patients become addicted to the drug.

Patients with a history of alcohol abuse or other drugs abuse are not appropriate candidates for the treatment with benzodiazepines.

Generic drugs:

  • Diazepam
  • Clonazepam

Alternative Medicines:

There are several herbal medications available for the treatment of anxiety. Results of the use of the herbal medications are mixed. 

Some herbal medicines like Java and valerian increase the risk of having serious liver damage.

Before taking any herbal supplements concern your doctor to make sure that there will be no side effects of using this supplement.

What Are The Home Remedies of Generalized Anxiety Disorders?

Generalized anxiety disorder can easily be treated at home by changing your life routine and by making yourself busy in your life.

  • Keep yourself physically active and develop a routine to do exercise daily. It may improve your mood and mental health.

Regular exercise and yoga can help to release stress. Exercise can help to improve your mood by releasing serotonin.  

Examples of exercises that are good to elevate your mood and reduce stress.

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Playing lawn tennis
  • Hiking
  • Playing football
  • Aerobics

You should have at least 150min of exercise in a week.

  • Have sufficient sleep daily as sleeping improve your mental health and help to improve your mood. If you have trouble sleeping, concern your doctor.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. As relaxation techniques help to ease the stress.
  • Eat healthy food because good food can also be useful in lowering the stress level.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and caffeine because these can worsen anxiety and stress. Caffeine can disturb your sleep cycle and hence precipitate anxiety and stress.

Coping and Support:

To cope with your anxiety and stress here are some general tips that can help you:

  • Stick to your treatment plan that is either medication therapy or psychotherapy. Take your medicines as directed by the doctor keep therapy appointments as consistency can make a big difference.
  • Give yourself a proper time and find out what is bothering you and making you anxious and address it.
  • Do not overthink about the bad things that happen to you and try to let them go and don’t dwell on the past. 
  • Make yourself busy and socialize. When you feel anxious have a brisk walk and talk to your loved ones.
  • Don’t make yourself isolated from your loved ones and when you have any kind of worries and feel stressful talk to your loved ones. 
  • Join support groups, as these groups can help you to manage your anxiety. Sometimes support groups also arrange a face-to-face talk where you can share your feelings and thoughts that are bothering you with other people.

What Are The Preventive Measures of Generalized Anxiety Disorders?

No one can predict that he/she is developing a generalized anxiety disorder but it can be prevented by adopting certain precaution measures.

  • If you noticed any change in your behavior, get help immediately because brain disorders are harder to treat if you wait. 
  • Keeping checking on yourself because by doing so you can help yourself to identify what is bothering you and what makes you feel happy.
  • Prioritize issues in your life this can help to reduce your stress.
  • Avoid eating unhealthy substances. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking as this substance of abuse can worsen the underlying conditions of anxiety and stress.

These measures help to reduce the chances of having generalized anxiety disorders. But it is not certain that by adopting these measures the chances of having a generalized anxiety disorder become zero.

 

Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

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