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Generalized anxiety disorder is defined as experiencing excessive and ongoing anxious feelings that interfere with a person's day to day activities. The treatment of such disorders requires a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.

Causes and risk factors

As is the case with most mental health issues, the causes for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may include genetic and other factors. Women tend to be diagnosed with GAD more often than men are. People with mild temperaments and who avoid potentially dangerous activities also tend to become more prone to developing GAD.

Psychological symptoms

Generalized anxiety disorder can elicit symptoms which vary in nature. Psychological manifestations of these symptoms can include the following:

  • There's persistent worrying or obsessing over various concerns that's disproportionate to the event that caused the anxiety. Excessive worrying about yourself or loved ones, or that something bad will happen would fit this category.
  • The patient doesn't have the ability to let go of or set aside the worry.
  • The patient struggles to relax and seems to be continuously restless and edgy.
  • There's difficulty in concentrating.
  • The anxious feelings increase when making life decisions and worrying that it may be a wrong decision that's being made.
  • There's a vicious cycle of worrying about worrying too much.
  • Patients find it difficult to be able to handle uncertain situations or they're indecisive.
  • They seem to only find negative conclusions to possible options or solutions to a situation or problem.

Physical symptoms

The brain is a very powerful organ and if there's an illness which affects it, then physical symptoms can also be experienced by the affected patient. These are called psychosomatic experiences and they can include the following signs and symptoms.

  • Increased perspiration.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle tension and spasms which can result in aches and pains.
  • Trembling and feeling twitchy.
  • Irritability.
  • Being easily startled or scared.
  • Issues with sleep.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhoea or irritable bowel syndrome.

Symptoms in children and adolescents

In addition to the already mentioned symptoms above, children and adolescents can also experience issues such as excessively worrying about their performance at school or at sport, worry about being on time and worry about chaotic and catastrophic events such as earthquakes.

The following are also important symptoms which these children may experience and should be taken note of.

  • They become very anxious trying to fit in with others.
  • They strive for approval.
  • They spend an excessively long time doing homework.
  • They try to be perfectionists.
  • There's a lack of confidence in them.
  • Redoing tasks because they're not perfect.
  • They require a lot of reassurance about their performances.

Complications

Besides increased worrying and anxiety, GAD can also lead to an impairment of one's ability to perform tasks efficiently due to poor concentration. It can also result in being fatigued during the day, sleep disturbances and worsening of other mental and physical health conditions.

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if your anxiety is associated with the following:

  • The anxiety is interfering with your relationships, work or other important parts of your life.
  • If you are depressed or struggle with other mental health issues.
  • If you have become addicted to alcohol, medications or illicit drugs, gambling or sex.
Very importantly, if you are experiencing any suicidal thoughts or are attempting to commit suicide, then you need to seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
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