What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is marked by “free floating anxiety”, with persistent and pervasive feelings of fright. The person experiencing this anxiety constantly feels threatened. Symptoms may include muscle tension, twitchiness, an inability to relax, autonomic hyperactivity (increased heart rate and sweating), an upset stomach, and headaches. The person may also experience apprehensive expectations or an anticipation that something terrible is going to occur, but they don’t know what it is. Vigilance of Scanning may also be a factor, in which the person has a heightened attention to everything in their environment, often resulting in increased distractibility and decreased concentration. Basically, the person suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder experiences a chronic state of hypervigilance and tension without any clear source or focus.
What causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, like other anxiety disorders, is believed to have a genetic basis. Anxiety problems are known to run in families. Brain chemistry, including abnormal levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine, also plays an important role in anxiety disorders. Environmental causes may also contribute. For example, a child who observes his parent or parents continuously dealing with stress and anxiety may develop similar behaviors over time. Psychological trauma, stress overload, poor self-esteem or personality issues, chronic insomnia, overworking, substance abuse, medical problems, and difficulties with family or other interpersonal relationships can all contribute to the onset or an exacerbation of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Frequently Asked Questions about Generalized Anxiety Disorder
How is Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosed?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed by specific symptoms lasting at least six months. Unlike panic disorders, which have a discrete time frame, or phobias, which have a specific etiology, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which has identifiable behaviors, generalized anxiety is more insidious. Symptoms such as chronic low grade worrying or uneasiness, or vague fears or preoccupations may wax and wane. Accordingly, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is often not recognized. Non-specific somatic symptoms, such as insomnia, shortness of breath, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to an endocrine or other medical condition. Important characteristics of the diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are how it interferes with a Client’s everyday living, including negative effects on family, friends, work or school. Additionally, adverse behaviors related to the anxiety, such as isolation or avoidance, are important to document a need for more intensive treatment.
What is the Prognosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be effectively remedied with psychotherapy, sleep and stress management, and psycho-education. Medications, when needed, can help a person with anxiety stabilize, or recover from a severe exacerbation. If symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder become disabling, the person may have difficulty seeking help or staying in treatment. Persons with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be predisposed to other conditions, including depression or substance abuse, which can make treatment more difficult. Research now shows there is a bidirectional influence between anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse. Drugs and alcohol can also induce illness consistent with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In either case, Clients may present with Dual Diagnosis, which makes treatment more complicated. It is imperative that a proper diagnosis be made in someone who presents with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, especially when there is concomitant substance abuse, so that an effective treatment strategy can be implemented.
How Can Loved Ones, Family and Friends Help?
The strength of the social network of a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, especially family and loved ones, is an important predictor of recovery. Psycho-education is important, so that family, significant others, and friends can learn about the symptoms and complications of Generalized Anxiety Disorder so they can detect when a person needs intervention or guidance. They must remain vigilant in monitoring medications and watching for symptoms as well as avoidant or isolating behaviors. In many cases, family members or a spouse bring their loved one to a treatment facility, providing social support and financial resources.
When Should a Client enter a treatment center?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder may start as vague feelings of tension or worry without a specific cause or inciting event. However, when symptoms progress and they are negatively impacting the daily school or work life, or disrupting personal and family relationships, family members should consider an intensive treatment program. Once per week psychotherapy or medication may prove ineffective at alleviating the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
How does PCH Treatment Center treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
PCH Treatment Center has outstanding qualifications in diagnosing and treating generalized anxiety disorder. Dr. Jeff Ball, the Executive and Clinical Director, has more than 25 years of experience working with Clients with significant anxiety disorders. Dr. Ball has assembled a team of highly skilled clinicians who work with each Client to delve deeply into their psychological problems. As an immersive treatment program, PCH Treatment Center utilizes psychotherapy to explore deep connections that may underlie the anxiety. Treating generalized anxiety involves much more than simply masking symptoms with medications. Our Psychiatrist, Dr. William Wirshing, will evaluate each Client and reorganize their medication regimen, as needed. He will eliminate unnecessary medications. Dr. Wirshing complements the PCH Treatment Center philosophy of mind-body holistic healing. Other modalities important in treating Generalized Anxiety include individual psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), anger management, sleep management, psycho-education, neurofeedback and more. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage therapy complement our more intensive treatment modalities. Family therapy groups are also available. These valuable groups incorporate family members or significant others into the Client’s treatment environment.