Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a mental health condition that is based on fear, a sense of being overwhelmed, or excessive worry about anything in life. This can include being fearful about interviewing for a new job or position, constantly thinking about having to drive to a new location, excessive worrying when your teenager graduates from high school, etc. Sometimes these thoughts can even be irrational or unrealistic. For example, thinking you’re going to get food poisoning every time you eat at a Taco Bell!
Generalized anxiety disorder is common in both adults as well as in children. For children, it can be as simple as the constant fear of tripping in the cafeteria line or asking a “stupid” question in front of the class. In fact, GAD for many individuals usually begins in childhood or early adolescents and carries on to adulthood. Childhood anxiety is prevalent in about 1 in 4 children (usually between the ages of 13 and 18 years). The lifetime prevalence of a severe anxiety disorder in children between these ages is approximately 6 percent.
Although GAD most commonly begins in childhood, there is no specific onset for this mental health condition and therefore it can technically start at any age. GAD is quite common and affects roughly 3 percent of the overall adult population. Generally, females are twice as likely to be affected by GAD than males. General anxiety disorder is normally comorbid with other mental health or psychiatric conditions including, but not limited to, major depressive disorder, specified phobias, social anxiety disorders, or panic disorders.
General anxiety disorder can affect both your mental and physical health. Some of the most common mental and physical symptoms of GAD include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intrusive thoughts
- Memory loss
- Lack of patience
- Feeling scared or uncomfortable
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Body/Muscle aches
Although researchers have not been able to narrow down what the exact cause of GAD is, they believe that it is a combination of biological, environmental, and genetic factors. It is more common to be diagnosed with GAD if a biological parent or sibling has it. As mentioned, environmental factors can also contribute to general anxiety disorder. Some of the more common environmental factors include chronic illness, abuse as a child, going through a traumatic experience, or being in a stressful atmosphere.
One of the most researched forms of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder is therapy. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a broad form of techniques that help an individual recognize and help change unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Psychoeducation, or becoming knowledgeable in the disorder can help individuals and their family members to provide the necessary support and guidance to increase well-being.
If you or anyone you know may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and would like to find out more, use this link to schedule a session with me at SEVN Therapy Co. in Colleyville, Texas or call our office at 817-778-0522. I would love to help you or your loved one recognize the root of their GAD and provide you with the appropriate tools to live a more holistic and qualitative life.