Understanding Generalized Anxiety
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as a negative mood state that is characterized by physical tension and apprehension about the future. Individuals with anxiety typically have a subjective sense of unease, worrying to a point where they no longer can control it and experience physiological responses such as an increased heart rate and muscle tension.
Now, many people often experience anxiety at some point in their lives, in fact, in a moderate amount, anxiety can actually be beneficial and improve certain circumstances! It has been found that we perform best when we are a little bit anxious, as things such as adrenaline (in moderation) help improve physical and intellectual performance. I myself, have noticed that the anxiousness I feel before a presentation actually motivates me to aim higher and work harder! However, it becomes a problem when the anxiety and worrying become excessive and uncontrollable; this can be known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
So how can you know if you have GAD?
Well, It is a psychological disorder characterized by excess worrying regarding anything that could be apart of everyday life or major upcoming life events. It can be followed by muscle tension, mental agitation, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and irritability. In order to be diagnosed with this disorder, patients typically experience these symptoms for at least 6 months, more days than not where they feel those effects. So if you’re someone who consistently experiences uncontrollable worrying, to the point you are experiencing significant distress or feel impairment in your functioning, then it may be best to reach out and seek help for your symptoms and/or condition.
As we are all made up of different genetic vulnerabilities, personality traits, and environmental influences, different treatment methods will work better for different people. A common method of treatment is Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT), which targets your cognitive skills, helping you learn ways to cope with anxiety and re-evaluate your beliefs to diminish your catastrophic thinking style. With CBT, we learn to question our negative thoughts, understand what triggers our anxiety, and eventually challenge those negative thoughts to reduce our feelings of anxiety.
Another treatment option would be to take medication. Depending on what your clinician recommends for you, you can take antidepressants, buspirone, and benzodiazepines. Popular antidepressants prescribed for GAD include escitalopram (Lexapro), duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva).
Lifestyle changes also can help reduce symptoms of GAD. Things like staying active, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, any kind of activity, or behavior change that can help reduce your anxiety will make a huge difference.
It’s important to understand that there are many resources and people out there that can help you get better and receive the proper treatment you need. Know that whatever you may be going through, you’re not alone and that your feelings, emotions, and thoughts are all valid. Never feel bad for reaching out for help!