Coping with Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Southwest EAP

Coping with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Worrying about an upcoming presentation or feeling nervous about a trip to the dentist are pretty commonplace emotions that happen in all of us. However, when those feelings get out of control, it’s time to seek help. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, occurs when a person continually worries about everything, or often, seemingly nothing at all. According to Harvard Medical School, this relatively common disorder affects about 5% of Americans at some point in their lives. Women are twice as likely as men to develop generalized anxiety disorder, and some research suggests that prevalence of this disorder increases with age.

Most other anxiety disorders occur as a result of a particular incident, such as a traumatic event or a phobia. Not so with GAD. People who are faced with this disorder experience debilitating worry and agitation. They fret over everyday matters and fear that something bad is always waiting for them right around the corner: Things such as getting in a car accident, a loved one dying, or losing a job.

Not only do sufferers of GAD experience terrible fear and worry, but they can also experience distinct physical symptoms as a result, such as a racing heart, dry mouth, upset stomach, muscle tension, sweating, trembling, and irritability. People with GAD also startle extremely easily, tend to feel tired, have trouble concentrating, and sometimes suffer from depression, in addition to the anxiety.

These symptoms make up an essential part of generalized anxiety disorder. Over time, the physical manifestations of anxiety can have a negative impact on a person’s health. For example: People with generalized anxiety disorder are at greater risk than other people for heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. In fact, studies have shown that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse.

Specific Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Excessive anxiety and worry about events or activities (such as work performance or family matters) that occurs more days than not for at least six months.
  • Difficulty controlling the worry.
  • Anxiety and worry associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past six months).
    • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
    • Being easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)

If you or a family member suffers from GAD, consulting with your employee assistance provider can be the first step to managing this condition.

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