Could You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Do you tend to worry too much about everyday things, even when there's no real reason for worry? Do you have trouble relaxing, concentrating, or sleeping? Are you plagued with unexplained aches and pains?

If you answered yes, you may be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. GAD sufferers tend to worry endlessly and often have accompanying physical symptoms such as fatigue, headache, muscle tension, aches, irritability, and hot flashes. Generalized Anxiety Disorder often goes hand-in-hand with depression.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder typically starts in teens or young adults and develops slowly. Mental health experts are trying to decipher the mechanisms behind GAD. They believe some of it is genetic. Individuals with GAD also have brain abnormalities that may keep them from processing negative emotions. In imaging studies, people with high anxiety responded excessively to emotionally negative stimuli. The most anxious patients had the greatest impairment in their ability to adapt to emotional conflict.

Most of us are familiar with Type A (competitive, aggressive) and Type B (easy going, creative) personalities. There is also a Type D (depressive) personality. These people have a tendency to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Type Ds are also socially inhibited. This combination of characteristics makes Type D individuals vulnerable to chronic forms of psychological distress and anxiety, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.


Fortunately, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is treatable. Patients find relief with medication-antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs-and psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of psychotherapy, is effective in treating people with GAD. Flexible treatment programs that allow patients to chose their preferred treatment-either medication, psychotherapy, or both-seem to work best.

Long-Term Risks of GAD

Effectively treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder can significantly improve your quality of life. But there's another important reason not to let excessive anxiety continue. Patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) who also suffer from GAD are at significantly increased risk for adverse cardiovascular outcomes, such as stroke, heart attack, or death. Since more than a quarter of CHD patients also experience symptoms of anxiety, this combination can be quite serious.

Furthermore, Type D personalities with coronary heart disease are almost four times as likely to have poor long-term outcomes. The stress hormone cortisol, and an increase in inflammatory proteins found in people with Type D personalities, may play a role in heart disease.

If you believe you are suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, don't wait for it to improve on its own; seek treatment right away.


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Lowry, Fran. "Chronic Anxiety Requires Long-Term Treatment to Prevent Relapse." Archives of General Psychiatry 67 (2010): 1274-1281. Medscape Medical News.  Web. 16 December 2010.

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