While we all worry about important issues in our everyday lives, some people are constantly worrying over the littlest things and let it affect the way they live. If you are always feeling anxious and have trouble concentrating, you may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is a common anxiety disorder that affects about 4 million people in the US each year.

Causes and symptoms of GAD

The exact cause of GAD is not known, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of biologic, genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms appear gradually and most commonly begin during childhood or adolescence, although it can begin in adulthood as well. People with GAD may experience:

  • Excessive and constant worrying
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hot flashes

Diagnosing Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is typically diagnosed through a full review of your medical history and questions about your symptoms. Patients need to have experienced the following criteria in order to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Extreme anxiety about various activities most days, for at least six months
  • Trouble controlling anxious feelings
  • Anxiety causing considerable distress or interfering with day-to-day activities
  • Anxiety not related to another condition
  • A minimum of three of the following criteria experienced by adults or one of the following if experienced by children: fatigue, trouble sleeping, irritability, restlessness, muscle tension or difficulty concentrating.

Treatment for GAD

Generalized anxiety disorder is typically treated through a combination of medication and psychotherapy. The types of medications typically prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder include antidepressants, buspirone, and benzodiazepines; it is important to be patient when taking medications, as they may not take effect immediately.

Psychotherapy, also known as therapy or counseling, aims to treat generalized anxiety disorder by discussing your condition with a mental health specialist. Psychotherapy sessions help you learn the causes of your anxiety and find coping strategies for unhealthy thoughts and/or actions.

Preventing GAD

There is no surefire way to prevent anxiety; however, there are certain measures that can be taken to reduce its effects on your daily functioning. These include following your treatment plan, learning about your condition, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, and having a strong support group of friends and/or family.