Everyone worries from time to time. We stress about money problems, children, relationships, work, and a lot more, but most of us can get over these worries and anxieties when we are able to relax or when things turn out for the better. This is a basically a healthy type of stress because it keeps us alert enough to try to solve our problems as best we can or show that we care about people and things. However, some people have problems with chronic anxiety and stress, such that they worry everyday, all the time, about almost everything. So instead of making them more effective in solving problems, their anxiety interferes with their daily activities to the point that their mind and body are unable to cope with even the most ordinary things.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by health professionals to diagnose mental conditions, generalized anxiety disorder occurs when a person experiences excessive worry and anxiety about many daily events or activities for at least 6 months. They have difficulty controlling their anxious feelings and this causes them significant distress which interferes with their daily life. Adults usually have at least three of these symptoms: restlessness, trouble concentrating, fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, or muscle tension. They may also have physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, lightheadedness, feeling out of breath, needing to go to the bathroom often, stomach trouble, sweating, diarrhea, and rapid heart rate.
There are several factors that may contribute to anxiety disorder such as genetic predisposition, imbalance in brain chemicals, a chronic disease, stressful events in life, childhood trauma, personality type, and being female, since the condition is twice as common in women than in men.
Sometimes a serious event or problem makes us worried or anxious, but people who have a generalized anxiety disorder usually has these symptoms even over small matters and these last for a longer time than usual.
People who feel depressed and have trouble using alcohol and/or drugs must also seek help. Emergency treatment must be given to an individual who has suicidal thoughts.
Relaxation often helps people to reduce stress levels but people who have an anxiety disorder often have difficulty relaxing. They often benefit from psychotherapy in the form of applied relaxation therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Psychotherapy may also be combined with the use of drugs that help restore balance in brain chemicals, such as Prozac, Zoloft or Effexor, which are prescribed by doctors. Other types of drugs include benzodiazepines such as Valium, tricyclic antidepressants such as Pamelor, or antipsychotic drugs such as Stelazine. These drugs take a few weeks to take full effect and they may have side effects that are similar to the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
To cope with chronic anxiety and stress, one can also try simple relaxation techniques including meditation and yoga. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise also help reduce stress. It is best to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs. Finally, it will really help to try to find time to get enough rest and sleep to relax both body and mind.
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