Treating Generalized Anxiety
You may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) if you go through the day worried, tense or anxious about your family, health or work, even when you know there are no signs of trouble.
Someone with GAD may have a good job, a happy marriage and well-adjusted kids, for example, but worries constantly it's all going to fall apart. Such a person may not let their children go on school trips because they fear they'll get kidnapped.
Constant worrying may interfere with GAD sufferers' day-to-day functioning. It may be accompanied by chronic physical symptoms, such as aches and pains, irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and frequent trips to the bathroom.
GAD is usually the diagnosis when exaggerated worrying lasts more than six months. GAD often occurs with other anxiety disorders, depression or substance abuse. These conditions must also be treated.
The first step in treatment is to determine if the anxiety is caused by a physical condition, an anxiety disorder or both. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, coexisting conditions must be identified and may need to be brought under control before the anxiety disorder can be treated. Sometimes several different treatments or combinations of treatments must be tried to find one that works. It is also important for treatment to be continued for a sufficient time. Treatment can be psychotherapy, medication or a combination of these.
Challenge negative thoughts
One major way that health care providers treat GAD is with cognitive behavioral therapy. With this treatment, a therapist helps identify and challenge the thoughts and behaviors that keep a person stuck in a worrying state. The therapy helps change both the thinking patterns that support fears, and the way the person reacts to anxiety-provoking situations. As part of this therapy, the therapist may teach basic stress-management techniques.
Regular exercise helps manage stress. Some people also benefit from joining a self-help or support group to help with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Medications help control the symptoms of GAD, but don’t cure it. The types of medications used to treat GAD include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers. Medications prescribed for GAD may have troublesome side effects, so it's important to work closely with your health care provider when taking them. In some cases, the side effects may pass in the first week to 10 days. If side effects linger, your health care provider may switch medications.
The National Institute of Mental Health offers these suggestions for taking medications:
Ask your doctor to tell you about the effects and side effects of the drug.
Tell your doctor about any alternative therapies or over-the-counter medications you are using.
Ask your doctor when and how the medication should be stopped. Some drugs should not be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a doctor's supervision.
Work with your doctor to determine which medication is right for you and what dosage is best.
Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.
Don’t stop taking medications without first talking to your health care provider.
Online Medical Reviewers:
Devulapally, Jagannath MD
Fincannon, Joy RN MN
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care.
Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.