Imagine waking up every morning with the feeling of utter dread and worry not being able to comprehend why. It is a feeling that sticks with you throughout the whole day. Many people suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It is known to be the most common type of anxiety disorder that causes uncontrollable nervousness, unease, fear, and worry (Heering & Oji, 2018). People who suffer from GAD find it difficult to live an ordinary life with daily activities. They predict disaster and are excessively concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Just trying to get through the day can produce anxiety (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018).
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a serious mental illness which affects six percent of the population during their lifetime. “Its manifestation is complicated by the comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), panic disorder, and alcohol/ substance abuse” (Maron & Nutt, 2017). The neurotransmitters that are affected when anxiety occurs are Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and GABA. Serotonin regulates mood and behavior, the lower the serotonin the higher risk of depression. When anxiety occurs, there are low levels of serotonin. Norepinephrine controls arousal. When there are high levels of norepinephrine it causes hyperarousal and increased anxiety. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it has a calming effect on the body. When someone is suffering from anxiety, GABA is increased (book). Neuroimaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and computed tomography (CT) have all been used to study the changes in the brain with GAD ( Maron & Nutt, 2017).
People with anxiety suffer with multiple physical and psychological symptoms. Headache, fatigue, muscle tension and aches, difficulty swallowing, twitching, irritability, nausea, lightheadedness, polyuria, and shakes are physical symptoms (National Institute of Mental Healthy, 2018). Depression is the main psychological symptom that occurs with GAD. Somatic disorders such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic back and neck pain coexist as well (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018). Although the cause of GAD is uncertain, the disorder has most likely resulted from the combination of biological abnormalities such as a decrease in the metabolic rate in the basal ganglia and white matter and atypical serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmission (Heering & Oji, 2018). These factors will cause significant distress and impairment when it comes to having a social life, job, and other important life skills.
Every individual is treated differently for a condition. With GAD there are numerous treatments. The best treatment includes a combination of psychotherapy and psychopharmacologic medications. Medications used for people suffering with GAD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and Benzodiazepines. SSRIs and SNRIs such as Paxil and Effexor are prescribed for long-term treatment because they are more effective with mild side effects. Xanax, which is a Benzodiazepine are used for short-term treatment because of multiple side effects. Relaxation skills, cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are psychotherapies that have had the best results in resolving and maintaining treatment for long-term (Femiano, Katzman, Struzik & Vermani, 2014). Cognitive therapy is used to help people with the way they think, feel and behave and cognitive behavioral therapy is taking the action to gain
independence and success that is needed in dealing with real life situations. With this said, the goal should not be just treating the symptoms, but also improving the quality of life.
GAD is highly common in children and adolescents from uncontrollable worrying. “Worries often center on future events, past behaviors, peer approval, family issues, personal abilities, and school or sporting performances” (Osoff, Pravikoff & Schub, 2018). They come off as being a perfectionist, upholding, punctual, and may also have low self-esteem. 2.9-4.6% is the prevalence rate of GAD in children and adolescents. Contributing factors for children and adolescents with GAD are family history of anxiety disorder, not living with both parents, negative family events, being bullied, and living in a low income household. Family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacological treatments are done to help them live a normal life (Osoff, Pravikoff & Schub, 2018).
In present society, generalized anxiety disorder is either commonly mistaken for other disorders, or not believed as an actual disorder. Uneducated people view anxiety as just being in someone’s head. However, it is so much more than that. That is why education about a disorder is important. Only people that suffer from GAD understand how difficult it is to live an ordinary life, but with treatment it is possible. It is a mental illness that should be taken seriously and not disregarded as being just anxious. It requires professional and competent treatment to maintain a healthy life.
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