Understanding Anxiety

Do you often worry about stuff or think something bad is going to happen?  I know these feelings because I have also had extreme anxiety.  Everyone worries about things sometimes but anxiety takes worrying to a much higher level.    This post will discuss the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and what can help you to feel better.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men.  It usually  develops gradually and can begin at any point in  life  but usually develops between childhood and middle age.  Other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD.   It  is commonly treated with medication and/or  cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Symptoms
Generalized anxiety disorder  is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or  more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with GAD usually:
Can’t control their excessive worrying
Have difficulty falling or staying asleep
Experience muscle tension
Expect the worst
Worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble
Are unable to relax
Are irritable
Are easily startled
Are easily fatigued
Have difficulty concentrating

Treatments
Generalized anxiety disorder usually responds well to medication and certain types of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness.  Sometimes medication won’t be needed and anxiety will respond well to psychotherapy.

Antidepressants
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders. These must be taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade, so it is important not to get discouraged and stop taking these medications. They need a chance to work.  This is especially helpful if you have depression and anxiety.   If you have any bothersome side effects, speak to your doctor and he or she will be able to determine if a change is needed in your medication. An adjustment in dosage or a switch to another medication  will usually correct side effects.

Anti-Anxiety Medications
Benzodiazepines relieve symptoms quickly  however they often increase drowsiness. Since many  people can develop a tolerance to them—and would have to continue increasing the dosage to get the same effect—benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time. People who have had problems with drug or alcohol abuse are not usually good candidates for these medications because they have a greater likelihood of becoming   dependent.  Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. Potential problems with benzodiazepines have led some physicians to shy away from using them.  Buspirone (Buspar),  is an  antianxiety medication used to treat GAD.  Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an antianxiety effect.

Cognitive-Behavioral  Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.
For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies such as meditation and  deep breathing exercises  in order to help you to better understand and manage your  thoughts and emotions in order to achieve relief from feelings of anxiety.

For many people, the best approach to treatment is medication combined with therapy. As stated earlier, it is important to give any treatment a fair trial.   Remember  if one approach doesn’t work, there are others that may be helpful for you.

 

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