Generalized anxiety disorder: Does excessive worry affect your life?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dr. Dilip Chandran

Are you frequently worried about money, health, family, or work to the point that it affects your quality of life? If you’re unable to stop or control excessive worry, a WVU Medicine mental health provider can help. About seven million Americans have a psychiatric condition known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), yet less than half receive treatment. WVU Medicine psychiatrist Dilip Chandran, MD, provides some facts about generalized anxiety disorder and treatment options.

1. Generalized anxiety disorder is different from occasional anxiety.
Most people experience anxiety in a number of different situations, like during a job interview or speaking in front of people, but generalized anxiety disorder is very different from occasional anxiety. GAD involves extreme, ongoing worry about a number of different things that the person has little control over. This persistent worry may debilitate a person to where it’s a major challenge to function at work or school and complete basic tasks like chores or homework. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and be overly concerned about their finances, job, family, or health. They are usually aware that their anxiety is more intense than necessary, but they are unable to stop the cycle of worry.

2. Women are more often affected and symptoms vary.
A person may develop generalized anxiety disorder as a result of biological factors, family background, and stressful life experiences, but the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown. Research shows that the areas of the brain that control fear and anxiety may be involved. Women are more likely to be affected by generalized anxiety disorder than men.

If you find it challenging to control worry during most days for at least six months, you may be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Each person may experience symptoms differently. Three or more of the following symptoms are usually present:

  • Severe anxiety, fear, or repeatedly unwanted thoughts
  • Difficulty sleeping, falling asleep, or staying asleep
  • Easily fatigued
  • Feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Lightheadedness or headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Trouble concentrating

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms may look like other mental health conditions. See a WVU Medicine mental health provider for a proper diagnosis.

3. Generalized anxiety disorder is a real illness.
Like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, generalized anxiety disorder is a real illness, not a character flaw or a sign of weakness. As with other psychiatric disorders, GAD has the potential to be life threatening if left untreated. A person with generalized anxiety disorder is usually affected by other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse too; GAD rarely occurs alone. Overtime, a person’s anxiety triggers may also evolve. Any uncertainty or change is usually more difficult for a person with generalized anxiety disorder.

4. Generalized anxiety disorder is highly treatable.
With the right combination of individual/group counseling and medication, people with generalized anxiety disorder can lead fulfilling lives. A WVU Medicine mental health provider will help you identify distorted anxious thought patterns and equip you with coping strategies to improve your quality of life. People with GAD cannot prevent their condition, but it is possible to learn how to change your thought patterns and reduce anxiety. Making lifestyle changes, learning coping skills, and using relaxation and mindfulness techniques, like yoga or meditation, may also help. WVU Medicine mental health experts are here to help you reclaim your life from unwanted worry.

Are you experiencing excessive worry that affects your quality of life? Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE