What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health disorder that is characterized by chronic, severe anxiety and worry. It often interferes with a person’s ability to perform daily functions, like going to the store, interacting with their peers and even leaving their home. Research estimates that nearly 6.8 million people in the U.S. will experience GAD within their lifetimes. That same research found that less than half received treatment for their anxiety disorder. If you’ve been diagnosed with the condition, you should keep reading through the sections below to learn more about it and what your treatment options are.

What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are excessive, persistent and unreasonable worry. Someone with GAD experiences several of the following symptoms for more than six months at a time:

  • Restlessness
  • Tense muscles
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain in their body
  • Trouble staying focused
  • Excessive worry
  • Heart palpitations
  • Being easily startled
  • Trouble relaxing
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Shakiness
  • Irritability

What are the causes of generalized anxiety disorder?

Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes generalized anxiety disorder to develop in someone. There are a few factors, however, that seem to be the most likely causes: 

  • Genetics — People with relatives in the first degree who have already been diagnosed with GAD are more likely to develop this mental health disorder. Genetics can play a role in a person’s likelihood of being born with or developing this disorder at some point in their lifetime. 
  • Substance use disorder — Having a substance use disorder and frequently using alcohol or drugs can play a role in the development of anxiety disorders. People who have substance use disorder may be more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder. 
  • Certain health conditions — Some health conditions, such as diabetes, may increase a person’s risk of developing GAD. Constant stress over maintaining good blood sugar and other related health concerns can cause someone with diabetes to develop GAD over time. Another type of health condition that can cause this anxiety disorder is hyperthyroidism because it is related to hormone levels in the body that may affect the body’s stress response. 
  • History of childhood abuse or neglect — Certain environmental factors, like abuse and neglect during childhood, can make a person predisposed to developing this condition. Chronic worry about survival can lead someone to develop anxiety disorders such as this one.

What are the treatments that are available to people who have generalized anxiety disorder?

If you’re someone who constantly feels as if they’re struggling to manage their generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, you should know more about your treatment options. It’s important to receive treatment for your anxiety disorder so that you may begin to experience an improved quality of life.

  • Psychotherapy — Psychotherapy is a type of mental health treatment that involves a client and a licensed mental health professional meeting in a shared space to talk over the client’s mental health concerns. There are several approaches to talk therapy that a therapist can use during treatment, like process-based therapy (PBT). PBT is an approach to treatment that encourages viewing a client as a whole person rather than just a diagnosis, and each client’s PBT treatment plan is designed specifically for that client. 
  • Medication — Medication can be helpful for some people. Anti-anxiety medications can help alleviate many of the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Non-habit-forming medications should be a first line of defense for generalized anxiety disorder. Medications like benzodiazepines can cause dependence and lead to withdrawal symptoms, which mimic symptoms of anxiety. If you’re not certain that you want to begin taking medication, it’s a good idea to speak with a licensed mental health professional first. 
  • Increasing your physical activity — Another method for improving the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder is to increase the amount of physical activity that you perform. Regular physical activity, such as taking daily walks, can reduce the amount of stress you feel each day. 
  • Avoiding using substances — People who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder should try to stay away from substance use. Using alcohol, drugs, and smoking can make anxiety symptoms feel worse.

Lightfully can professionally treat your generalized anxiety disorder

Our mission at Lightfully is to provide high-quality mental health care. We treat various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. We have extensive experience working with adults struggling to manage the symptoms of their generalized anxiety disorder. We’re confident that our mental health programs can help you improve the state of your mental health.

Lightfully offers various levels of care to both adults and teens: Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for adults. If you have an anxiety disorder, we’d like to help you. Lightfully has a history of working with adults who need some extra assistance from licensed clinical therapists. Whatever your circumstances, don’t hesitate to reach out to Lightfully. 

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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