7 treatments for generalized anxiety disorder that you should know about


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Anxiety can be challenging to live with. But you don’t have to experience anxiety alone. Over 31% of Americans experience anxiety at some time in their life. In your world of constant worry, unease, and fear, you may be reassured to know help is available to you. 

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Those who experience generalized anxiety disorder live with a constant and excessive worry about a variety of issues. It can be hard for those with generalized anxiety disorder to control their worrying. Worrying happens to everyone, but it becomes a concern if you have uncontrollable worries more days than not for at least six months

Generalized anxiety disorder affects over 3% of the American population every year. It affects women twice as often as men. It can affect people of any age or background. It also often occurs with a depressive disorder. 

Common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can include:

  • Feeling on edge
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling restless
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Rapid breathing
  • Feeling a sense of impending doom or danger
  • Difficulty concentrating

What are common causes of generalized anxiety disorder?

Those who have researched generalized anxiety disorder have not found any particular cause of the disorder, but it is possibly caused by a combination of environmental, behavioral and genetic factors. 

Environmental factors that can contribute to developing generalized anxiety disorder can be:

  • Living through a traumatic event
  • Living in an extremely stressful environment
  • Having experienced child abuse
  • Living with a chronic illness (yours or a close family member’s)

If you believe you or someone you care about is experiencing generalized anxiety disorder, you can take an anxiety quiz here. This quiz is for information, not a diagnostic tool. But it can be the first step toward treating generalized anxiety disorder if you do have it.

How is generalized anxiety disorder treated?

Despite anxiety being the most common mental health issue in the U.S., only about 37% of those experiencing anxiety seek treatment. Of the 3% of Americans affected by generalized anxiety disorder, only 43% seek treatment. You don’t have to deal with generalized anxiety disorder alone. A therapist, a psychiatrist or primary care doctor can help you with your anxiety. Treatment of your generalized anxiety disorder can depend on the effect it has on your daily life. The two most common treatments for generalized anxiety disorder are therapy and medication.

Therapy approaches for generalized anxiety disorder treatment can include:

  • Process-based therapy (PBT) — At Lightfully, we use process-based therapy as our clinical model. PBT is a therapy approach that integrates a variety of evidence-based therapies, like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), to address the underlying drivers of mental health symptoms like those associated with GAD. Common underlying drivers include emotion dysregulation and avoidance, shame and cognitive fusion, interpersonal disconnection and isolation, and meaningless and stagnation. Your PBT therapist will create a treatment plan unique to your needs that utilizes interventions to which you will respond best and addresses underlying drivers that are keeping you stuck.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — CBT is one of the types of psychotherapy treatment that is integrated into PBT. CBT uses multiple techniques, such as relaxation, behavioral activation, journaling and behavioral experiments. Through CBT, you can unlearn negative and anxious ways of thinking and learn healthier thinking patterns and habits.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) — ACT is another therapy approach integrated into PBT. ACT helps you learn how to stop avoiding your emotions and anxieties. ACT can help you understand the nature of your anxiety, how to be less afraid of your anxiety, and how to make choices best for you despite your anxieties. ACT won’t get rid of your anxiety triggers, but it can help you learn the coping skills you need to live your best life.

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) — DBT is also an approach that is integrated into PBT. It can help you learn how to balance your thoughts about a situation and the actual situation when the two don’t align. It can help you learn to combine acceptance and change. 

Your health care or mental health provider may recommend a combination approach of therapy and medication to help you with your generalized anxiety disorder. It is important to discuss with your provider the benefits, potential side effects or risks of a medication before you begin a new medication.

Medications prescribed to help treat generalized anxiety disorder can include:

  • Antidepressants — While antidepressants treat depression, they can also be prescribed to help treat the symptoms experienced by generalized anxiety disorder. Antidepressants come as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs block the reabsorption of serotonin by certain nerve cells. Serotonin boosts the mood. SNRI increases serotonin and norepinephrine production, helping to boost the mood. Antidepressants can take several weeks before the benefits can be felt.

  • Buspirone — Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication that can help treat generalized anxiety disorder. It can take several weeks to become fully effective.

  • Benzodiazepines — When generalized anxiety disorder is severe, an anti-anxiety sedative may be prescribed. These can be effective for helping anxiety but can also cause a tolerance to build up, requiring a higher dose to remain effective and contributing to possible dependence.

  • Beta blockers — Beta blockers can be prescribed to help treat physical symptoms of anxiety. 

Life can be messy and complicated. Anxiety doesn’t have to be a burden you endure alone. With the help of a licensed mental health professional, you can break control of your life from generalized anxiety disorder. Don’t settle just for any therapist, though; make sure you are comfortable with your choice of therapist. Feeling comfortable with your therapist will allow you to get the most out of your treatment. 

Lightfully can help you retake control of your life from generalized anxiety disorder

Our Lightfully mission is to compassionately help people and change their lives. We strive to provide our clients with premier care. We offer a variety of services to meet the needs of our clients. Our therapists have extensive training and education in research-backed therapy approaches. 

We are here to help you work through your struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and achieve your best life. Our licensed clinical therapists see more than an anxiety diagnosis; they see the whole complex human that you are. Your emotions and feelings are valid and part of your human experience. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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