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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This disorder exemplifies the definition of chronic anxiety, with excessive worrying about a lot of different life events over a period of at least six months. You might feel restless, tense and tired, have difficulty sleeping, find it hard to concentrate, and be more irritable than usual. Many people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) describe themselves as chronic worriers, who often become more upset by problems than the average person. The key component of this disorder is not worry, but excessive worry.

Many people with generalized anxiety experience panic attacks at some point in their lives, in response to more severe stress. Eventually, you might begin to worry about worrying. That is, because you see yourself as an anxious person who can't handle stress very well, you develop additional anticipatory anxiety when you must face a stressful situation. (eg. going for a job interview, entering the hospital for a medical procedure, etc.) 

Many primary care physicians treat generalized anxiety disorder exclusively by prescribing anti-anxiety medications, especially the benzodiazepines, rather than referring the person for psychotherapy. However, these drugs are not without risk. They cause impairment of cognitive functioning, including reaction time. Many individuals experience rebound anxiety if they abruptly stop taking the medications. Research has also suggested that the benzodiazepines may produce functional changes in the central nervous system that make it difficult for people to withdraw from these drugs.

Generalized anxiety disorder is not a biological problem, it is a psychological problem with pronounced physical symptoms. It requires psychological treatment, most often a combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy.  Psychologists have used behavioral treatment effectively to teach individuals how to reduce their anxiety through relaxation exercises. Cognitive therapy techniques help identify and change the expectations you might have that triggers anxiety. A combination of cognitive and behavioral interventions has shown very positive results, without the drawbacks of medication. The development of cognitive coping strategies for managing anxiety is a particularly effective treatment for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.

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