Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

generalized anxiety disorder causes symptoms prevention and treatment

Overview and Statistical Facts

It is quite normal to feel anxious and stressed time to time. Feeling anxious about examination, job interview or a medical test is normal. However, a person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) finds it difficult to control his worries. They feel constantly anxious which might start disrupting their daily life, affect their relationships and quality of life. GAD is a type of anxiety disorder and is also known as chronic anxiety neurosis. It is characterized by excessive and persistent worry about various things or situations. This might also happen when there is no apparent reason to worry.

A person might develop GAD as a child or an adult. The symptoms of this disorder are similar to those in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and other types of anxiety, but all of them are different conditions. GAD is a long-term condition that causes a person to feel anxious about several issues and situations, rather than a particular issue or event. In many cases, GAD occurs along with other mood and anxiety disorders. Conventionally, treatment for this disorder includes medications and psychotherapy. Practicing relaxation techniques, learning to cope with situations and making necessary lifestyle changes help in managing anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 3.1% or 6.8 million of the U.S. population are affected by GAD. Only 43.2% of the affected population receive treatment. Women are twice as likely to develop the disorder.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The psychological symptoms of GAD are:


The physical symptoms of GAD are:

Children and adults with GAD have similar worries, but children might excessively worry about:

Risk Factors of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The risk factors of GAD are:

Sex: Women are twice as likely to develop GAD than men. It might be because of the cultural expectations, hormonal factors, willingness to go to doctor and talk about anxiety.
Family History and Genetics: GAD can be hereditary, i.e., it can be passed on from one generation to another. The reasons might be failure to learn effective coping skills, over-protective behavior, violence and abuse. About one-fourth of first-degree relatives, i.e. a person’s parents, sibling or children develop this disorder.

Substance Abuse: Alcohol, smoking and drug use might increase the risk of developing GAD.

Personality Factor: A person who is negative, timid or avoids every dangerous situation is more prone to develop the disorder.

Depression or other Anxiety Disorders: People with mild/severe depression and having other anxiety disorders are more likely to develop GAD. People with chronic diseases may also develop this disorder.

Ethnic and Socio-Economic Factors: Financially weak members of minority groups tend are at a greater risk of developing GAD.

Stressful and Traumatic Events: Susceptible people who have been through life-changing, negative or traumatic events like childhood abuse, job loss, relationship break or loss of a loved one, tend to have higher risk of developing GAD.

History of Self-Harm or Suicide: Teens or adolescents who have an history of self-harm with or without an intention of suicide, have higher risk of developing the disorder.


Do I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

There are several signs which shows a person might have developed GAD. These are:

Causes and Prevention of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The causes of GAD are:

Genetics: Generalized anxiety disorder runs through families, i.e. it may pass on from one generation another. Hence, genetics plays an important role in development of the disorder. First-degree relatives of the person suffering from the disorder might develop this disorder.

Brain Chemistry: If the pathways that connect various regions of the brain work in an abnormal manner, it may lead to the development of GAD. These abnormal changes in the neural pathways lead to mood changes and anxiety.

Environmental Factors: Stressful events and trauma like loss of a job, relationship break, or loss of a loved one may lead to generalized anxiety disorder. It might also be caused as a withdrawal symptom or by overuse of certain addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, recreational drugs, etc.

Prevention of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The following measures can prevent generalized anxiety disorder:

Diagnosis and Tests for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

To diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, the mental health professional or doctor may:
Conduct a physical examination to confirm the disorders that might be causing the symptoms like panic disorder, depression or any other anxiety disorder. The doctor might also try to figure out if any other medication is causing the symptoms

Treatment and Care for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The treatment for generalized anxiety disorder involves psychotherapy and medications. A combination of these can help in reducing anxiety associated with the disorder. The treatment option depends on how severely GAD is affecting your ability to function. Treatment of GAD includes:

1. Psychotherapy: It is also known as talk therapy. It is the most preferred treatment for the disorder. It has proved to be more effective and better treatment than the medications. It helps the person in understanding generalized anxiety disorder and cope up with anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy. During CBT sessions, the therapist teaches the person to directly manage the anxiety. With a successful CBT treatment, the person can continue doing usual normal tasks that he/she avoided due to anxiety. Anxiety and excessive worry will gradually decrease in few weeks and finally disappear in a few months. Psychotherapy involves exposure treatment, stress reduction, relaxation training, mindfulness exercises, and cognitive reconstructing.

2. Medications: There are several medications that help in reducing the symptoms associated with the generalized anxiety disorder. The medications that are effective in GAD are:

Care during Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Breathe deeply and slowly while having anxiety. Try breathing techniques that help in calming your body.

OTC or Self-Management Methods for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There is no OTC for generalized anxiety disorder. However, a person can take prescribed medications.

Certain herbal supplements like vitamin B, vitamin C, zinc, Valerian, Kava and passionflower can be used along with the treatment. The person suffering from this disorder must consult doctor before using these supplements as they have some serious side-effects.

Self-Management Methods for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Natural Ways to Cure Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The natural ways to cure generalized anxiety disorder are given below:

Health Tip by Expert

It is advised to seek treatment early as anxiety can be difficult to treat at later stages. Generalized anxiety disorder is best treated with psychotherapy and medications. However, supplements like Kava and Valerian might interfere with other medications and cause several side-effects. It is better to consult your doctor before taking any supplement. Healthy diet and exercise can help in preventing this disorder.

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