Generalized Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Most of us are familiar with the unpleasant excitement or fear experienced before a university exam, job interview, or any other important test. Anxiety before and during stressful situations is a common psychological response. However, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than a temporary nervousness before tense situations. GAD is a general, long-term and intense anxiety condition that often makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks and reduces the quality of life of those affected. In our article you can learn about its symptoms, causes and treatment.

What is generalized anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition of intense anxiety. The steady state of excitement is accompanied by an unpleasant feeling of tension. Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health problem that affects many:  6.8 million adults in the US, or 3.1% of the population, suffer from generalized anxiety disorder according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Only 43.2% of these individuals receive professional medical care and more than 2 times as many women are affected by it as men. Generalized anxiety disorder and depression often occur simultaneously in patients. Not only is the working-age population affected by it, but GAD is also the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder among the elderly.

Fortunately, generalized anxiety disorder is effectively treatable. Significant improvement can be achieved in a short time with the help of a specialist, medication, and anti-anxiety psychological exercises.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety 

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) identifies six common symptoms for diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder: 

  • sleep disturbance, insufficient sleep
  • tension, irritability
  • increased restlessness, nervousness
  • fatigue
  • muscle tension
  • concentration issues

To make a diagnosis, in addition to anxiety, the patient is characterized by at least three other symptoms for a minimum of six months. Importantly, like other mental health disorders, GAD can only be diagnosed by a specialist. If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, consult a professional to make an accurate diagnosis. 

In addition to symptoms listed by the ICD, people experiencing generalized anxiety disorder report other psychological and physiological symptoms. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include: 

  • deconcentration
  • depersonalization
  • digestive complaints
  • tiredness, exhaustion
  • headache
  • choking sensation or a lump in the throat feeling
  • stomach ache
  • diarrhea
  • trembling
  • an unjustified feeling of foreboding
  • insomnia
  • shortness of breath, breathing problems
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • constant restlessness
  • noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat
  • muscle aches and tension
  • tightness in chest
  • paleness
  • lack of patience
  • disturbing, intense excitement

What causes anxiety disorder?

The exact causes of GAD are still unknown. There is no scientific consensus on the causes of generalized anxiety disorder. Both genetic factors and lifestyle conditions are thought to play a role in its development. We have summarized the risk factors that may contribute to the development of GAD below:

  • Accumulation of distress, exhaustion
  • Personality disorder
  • High tendency to anxiety
  • Anxiety disorder present in the family
  • Chronic illness, permanent deterioration of health

Generalized anxiety treatment: here’s how to get rid of the stifling condition

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most effectively treatable mental health conditions. With appropriate professional help, the condition of patients with GAD can be improved in a short period of time. The therapeutic approach is a two-pillar process: anti-anxiety drugs are recommended to relieve anxiety symptoms as soon as possible, while relaxation techniques and psychotherapeutic treatments are used for the long-term treatment of the disease.

It is extremely important that only a qualified healthcare professional is authorized to prescribe anti-anxiety medications. It is important that the patient takes the medication at the correct dose and on a regular basis in accordance with medical prescriptions. In addition to anti-anxiety drugs, it is often forbidden to drink alcohol, operate heavy machinery or drive a car. Contact your doctor and pharmacist for details. 

Both dynamic psychotherapy and behavioral therapy techniques are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Although the two approaches are different, there are plenty of publications on the success of both therapeutic methods. It is worth consulting with a mental health professional for help in choosing the right therapeutic method!

Based on the above, do you feel you may have generalized anxiety disorder? Follow the steps below!

Step 1: Contact your GP and describe your symptoms in detail. If your GP thinks you may have GAD, you may receive a referral to a psychiatric clinic.

Step 2: At the psychiatrist a questionnaire and a 20-30 minute verbal test are usually used to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder.

Step 3: Follow the specialist's instructions. In addition to medication (or instead of it if you’d rather skip meds) try to use therapeutic methods with the guidance of a therapist for long-term improvement. 

When seeking treatment it is important to know the difference: a psychiatric clinic may offer the correct medication, while a therapist/psychologist can offer you the right mental health tools and coping mechanisms to make sure you can regulate your anxiety on the long term. 

Stress management in the workplace

For many, the main source of stress is the work environment. High expectations of continuous satisfactory performance, a competitive work environment, and communication problems can all lead to increased stress. Many digital solutions are trying to help remedy the latter problem. The Blue Colibri App provides easy, fast and instant communication across the organization. Employees can even communicate on their own devices. It is an effective solution for reaching colleagues who do not have a corporate email address and / or a computer. The user interface of the Blue Colibri App is user-friendly and easy to learn. Thanks to the statistics, the efficiency of internal communication can be measured, and based on detailed analyzes and reports, the employee experience and the internal communication strategy can be improved.

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In summary

Stress, despite all the inconvenience, is an important part of our lives. It can increase physical and mental performance in emergencies. Temporary distress is a normal part of stressful situations, such as an exam or interview. However, generalized anxiety disorder is a persistent and irrational state of excitement and tension. In the US, the problem affects more than 3% of the population and is twice as common in women. Symptoms may include sleep disturbances, insufficient sleep, tension, irritability, increased restlessness, nervousness, fatigue, muscle tension and concentration problems. In its treatment, medication and therapeutic methods are usually combined! If you feel you have symptoms of GAD, get medical help as soon as possible.

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