Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) occurs when an individual has chronic and exaggerated worry and tension to a degree far higher than the normal anxiety experienced by people on a day-to-day basis . Individuals with GAD anticipate disaster and worry excessively about issues such as health, money, work or family. The actual source of the worry is often difficult to identify specifically. Although people with GAD often realize that their anxiety is greater than the situation demands, they cannot easily reduce their anxiety levels. Symptoms include the inability to relax and difficulty falling or staying asleep. Physical symptoms may also accompany GAD and can include trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, excessive perspiration, and hot flashes. They may also feel lightheaded, out of breath or nauseous. In some cases, people with GAD also suffer from depression. Unlike other anxiety disorders, individuals with GAD do not usually avoid situations that produce anxiety. As a result, the normal stressors associated with routine activities such as work can serve to aggravate the symptoms of the disorder.
Although approximately 3-4% of the population suffers from GAD, there is no clearly defined cause of the disorder. It often begins in childhood or adolescence, but onset can also occur in early adulthood, with the median age of onset in the early twenties. Generally, the effects of the disorder diminish with age, with a reduction in anxiety levels as people grow older. The disorder also affects more women than men. Some researchers believe that GAD runs in families, although it remains unclear whether it is an inherited or an environmentally caused condition.
The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms associated with GAD cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, work or other important areas of the individual’s life. Because in many cases, the impairment level is mild, the disorder is often undiagnosed. Severe GAD, however, can be debilitating and heavily restrict the ability of an individual to engage in normal daily activities.