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Occasional anxiety is not only normal, but it is an adaptive response that gets us ready to cope with environmental stressors and dangers. We feel anxious when faced with problems at work, prior to taking an exam, or while expecting a big event.

However, a person with generalized anxiety disorder may have overwhelming worries over a wide range of issues, which interferes with one’s daily activities and may be debilitating.

1. What does generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel like?

  • Excessive worry and persistent feelings of fear about a range of life situations for the past 6 months
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath/ difficulty breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension

2. What puts a person at risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder?

The cause of GAD has not been fully understood yet, the following are the most common risk factors.

  • Females are at higher risk of developing GAD
  • Genetics; GAD runs in families
  • Negative or timid temperament
  • Changes in brain chemistry; the changes in the naturally occurring neurotransmitters and their interaction with the circuits of the amygdala, which is the region of the brain that is responsible for controlling thinking and emotions
  • Trauma and stressful events in childhood

The use and withdrawal of drugs, alcohol, or nicotine may worsen the symptoms of anxiety

3. What are the treatment modalities at LWHCC for GAD?

There are effective treatments for anxiety and the vast majority of patients improve and are able to function effectively once again. Treatment can include either psychotherapy (talking therapy) or medications or both.

  • Psychotherapy plays a major role in the treatment of GAD. It aims at modifying the person’s thinking process and provides techniques that help him/ her control their emotions. One “side effect” of psychotherapy is temporary discomfort while confronting feared situations. The psychotherapist will help you through this process to keep discomfort to a minimum level.
  • Antidepressants, which are usually prescribed when patients have been suffering with GAD and interfering with daily activities. You may start sleep better and feel less anxious after a few days of starting antidepressants.
  • Benzodiazepines, which are used with caution, since they may develop dependency if they are used consistently over a period of few weeks at a higher does. These medications are strictly for short term use and acute anxiety relief. These are good supplements to antidepressant medications to help cope with the anxiety and short term relief from symptom before the antidepressant medication start working and show effect.

Which treatment modality is better for me?

At LWHCC, we will provide you with free triage service with a professional who will carry on a brief mental health assessment, either over the phone or during a face-to-face interview, and guide you to the appropriate service based on your mental health status and individual needs.

4. What can you do to help yourself?

  • Stay physically active, even a short walk can help relieve your anxiety symptoms
  • Try to maintain a sleeping routine; try lying down in bed and listening to soft music if you can’t sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and other sedatives as they may worsen anxiety, especially during withdrawal
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Eat healthy meals
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation
  • Follow your treatment plan
  • Socialize; social isolation can worsen your anxiety
  • Try to break the cycle; when you feel anxious, go for a walk or do an activity that you enjoy

5. What can you do to help a close one who has GAD?

GAD poses many challenges in the life of the patient and spouse/ family/ caregivers. Some of these challenges include disrupted plans and routines, finances, social life, and emotional wellbeing. You may feel burned out on several occasions. The following tips might be helpful.

  • Learn about GAD. You may want to discuss your concerns with the patient’s mental health team. Please do not hesitate to contact us any time you have a question.
  • Do not criticize irrational fears; rather show positive reinforcement of positive behaviors
    Encourage treatment
  • Listen to their fears and worries. Do not assume that you know their thoughts or needs
  • Ask how you help
  • Acknowledge that you do not know the experience of GAD
  • Measure your close one’s progress based on their own improvement rather than absolute standards.

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