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Symptoms and Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Updated on February 11, 2011

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive worry or anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder can affect both adults and children. This condition is highly treatable.

When is worry a sign of an anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety at times. When faced with a test or before a supervisor’s evaluation, it is normal to feel some anxiety. Anxiety may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder if the person is worrying or anxious for most days for at least six months. Someone with generalized anxiety disorder has difficulty controlling the anxiety or worry.

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:

· Irritability

· Feeling on edge or restless

· Difficulty concentrating

· Being easily fatigued

· Muscle tension

· Sleep disturbance which can be difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or restless sleep that causes the person to still feel tired upon waking

For a person to be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, the person must have at least three of those symptoms during the period of excessive worry or anxiety. It may be difficult for someone who does not have generalized anxiety disorder to understand why the person with the disorder cannot just stop worrying. Family therapy may be helpful to explain the condition and its effects to the family.

Other treatments for generalized anxiety disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the person stop the cycle of negative thoughts and worry and replace those thoughts with positive thinking that is based on reality.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and other medications are often used as part of general anxiety disorder treatment. Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, and Paxil are antidepressants that may be used to treat this disorder. An anti-anxiety medication like Buspar is sometimes used with an antidepressant. Sedating medications called benzodiazepines were used more frequently to treat anxiety disorders in the past. When a benzodiazepine drug like Valium, Klonopin, or Xanax is used, it is often only used temporarily. Sleep medications may also be prescribed to treat the sleep disturbances associated with general anxiety disorder.

People with generalized anxiety disorder can help control the symptoms with lifestyle changes. Exercise and relaxation techniques are considered home treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Therapists can teach people suffering from anxiety how to use relaxation techniques to reduce the anxiety symptoms.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

When a child has symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, the child may be diagnosed with overanxious disorder of childhood (ODC). For a diagnosis of overanxious disorder of childhood, the child only needs to have one of the general anxiety disorder symptoms listed plus the six month period of excessive worry or anxiety. Therapy may include the parents and may focus on teaching the parents and child healthy outlets for anxiety and challenging thoughts of worry with positive self-talk. Children may also be taught visualization and relaxation techniques as part of their treatment.


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    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Never heard of this disorder...sounds similar to mild depression? I would also hazard a guess that someone with those symptoms may also want to reevaluate their diet, lower their caffeine intake or get rid of it altogether and not drink any fluids two hours before bedtime. These are steps I've taken to help when I have the above symptoms. Great writing! Clear and concise.