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When your mind cannot cope with an overwhelming situation rationally, you feel stressed. For a healthy person, a challenging situation can be an opportunity to prepare strongly to overcome it, but the same can be a cause of worry for someone who is undergoing stress.

Life has become so complicated in the new millennium. With the advent of the internet, we expose ourselves to tons of information due to its easy access. It is just a click away and you have everything right in front of you. That’s good, but it’s overpowering too. It has heightened the level of competition in every walk of life. Be it in the marketplace, workplace, educational institutions, and of course our social life; people just want to be ahead of others.

There are also precarious situations where your reactions can seriously affect your performance. For example, you are presenting a business strategy to the senior management of your company. What you show and how you present may or may not be unanimously agreed upon. So, if you are anxious about their acceptance more than the quality of your content, it would surely affect your presentation and probably demerit its true benefit to your audience.

How you react to a situation may depend on where you are and what the context of the activity is. If you complain about the quality of food served to you on a business class flight, you may well be in your limits. But if you do that to a street vendor in an underdeveloped country, your reactions may be unwarranted. So, you should know how to react rationally.

Although it is normal to be anxious from time to time, a prolonged feeling of stress is an unhealthy mental condition.

Such ongoing anxiety for almost every activity in one’s life may be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). And that’s bad, for sure!

Generalized anxiety disorder is a difficult state of mind. It is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worries about everyday life events for practically no obvious reasons. People suffering from GAD have a tendency to think negatively and can’t stop worrying about their health, finance, performance; and much more.

It is estimated that about 6.8 million adult Americans suffer from GAD annually. Globally, around 4 percent of people may experience a generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their life. The median age of onset for GAD is 31-years-old.

For someone suffering from GAD, life becomes a heavy load of worry, stress, and dread. Consequently, anxiety dominates the thought process and interferes with daily functioning all the time. You would eat, drink, and breathe stressfully. Maybe even skip meals, making you physically weak and discourage your mental abilities to face a situation bravely.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with symptoms of GAD tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying

GAD affects the way a person thinks but symptoms can vary from each case. It may include:

  • Unrealistic views on problems and overthinking on plans and solutions
  • Persistent worrying or anxious about multiple subjects
  • Perceiving ordinary situations and events as challenging
  • Fear of making a wrong decision
  • Difficulty managing uncertain consequences
  • Difficulty concentrating or the notion that your mind “goes blank”
  • Inability to minimize the intensity of a worry
  • Restlessness and inability to relax
  • Nausea, diarrhoea or irritable bowel syndrome

Children and teenagers may also have similar worries about their performance at school or sporting events, avoid going to school or social events, family members’ safety, lack of confidence, and so on. Many of the teenage tantrums may be because of anxiety disorders. In fact, it most often begins in childhood and adolescence.

What makes the condition detrimental is, these worries may not go away on their own but could get worse over time. It is important to detect such behaviour as early as possible to avoid turning it into a hardened negative attitude.

Also Read:  How to Overcome Your Anxiety Without Medication

What Causes GAD?

It may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of GAD as many types of research and studies have explained various factors for such disorders. Some of the well-known causes are genetics, brain chemistry, and personal experiences.

1. Genetics

Some research suggests that family history plays a critical part in increasing the likelihood of a person having symptoms of GAD. This can grow even more severe with the personal experiences that add to it. Many studies have proven that it passes the tendency to develop GAD in families. The malfunctioning of a nerve cell because of genetic defects can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

2. Brain Chemistry

Nerve cell pathways connect particular regions of the brain involved in thinking, emotions, and feelings. These nerve cell connections depend on chemicals called neurotransmitters which transmit information from one nerve cell to the other enabling you to react to an event. For any reason, if the pathways that connect a particular brain region do not flow smoothly, problems can arise related to mood or anxiety. Depending on the severity of the blockages of neurotransmitters, the possibility to develop GAD may increase.

3. Personal Experiences

Trauma and dreadful events, such as sexual abuse, accident, death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools, humiliation, may have a major contribution to develop GAD. Also, the use of and withdrawal from addictive substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine can worsen the severity of anxiety.

How Bad is GAD?

The biggest difficulty of GAD is to identify the illness correctly. Unfortunately, there are no such labs that can specifically examine to diagnose anxiety disorders. The doctor may conduct various tests to identify physical symptoms and psychological responses to arrive at a conclusion.

This requires a detailed observation of the reports on the intensity and severity of the symptoms. GAD is diagnosed only if the symptom persists for a longer period than just a few days. Moreover, the symptoms must also interfere with daily living, such as causing you to skip work or school activities for a considerable time.

Insomnia can lead to difficulty focusing, irritability, and lack of balance

Having a generalized anxiety disorder can be literally crippling. You would disengage in physical activities as your mental ability discourages you to have a meaningful interaction with others. It can isolate you socially and aggravate your fears due to your feeling of insecurities.

In most cases, some observe that anxiety disorder impairs the ability to perform tasks quickly and efficiently. This is primarily due to the stressful condition that makes it difficult to concentrate on the tasks in hand. Consequently, this can lead to a lack of confidence and push you to the corner only to brood over your inabilities, making the condition worse. Furthermore, it increases the risk of depression.

These dysfunctions don’t end there but can interfere with your daily functioning leading to or worsening other physical health conditions, such as:

  • Frequent Headaches and Migraines
  • Sleep disorder and insomnia
  • Digestive or bowel movement problems
  • Chronic pain and illness
  • Cardiac problems

The severity of GAD can also develop suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. Different types of phobias can create delusions and deceptive illusions of fear and worry. Such phobias can give panic attacks for no particular reason and a constant dread of the unknown.

How to Treat GAD?

Ideally, consult a psychiatrist or psychologist, or any mental health professional that specializes in GAD and other mental illnesses. Usually, the treatment includes a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). You can also try a non-medicinal approach.

1. Medications

There are plenty of drugs for treating GAD and these classes of drugs are called benzodiazepines. Almost all of them are addictive, sedating, and can even interfere with memory and attention. They are sometimes referred to as “minor tranquillizers” because they can get rid of intense feelings of acute anxiety.

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These drugs help in easing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as restlessness and muscle tension. Common benzodiazepines can exaggerate the effects of sedation when combined with other medicines. It can also react with dangerous consequences if mixed with alcohol. Some anti-depressants may take longer to take effect, but they’re safer and more appropriate for long-term treatment of GAD.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is a psychotherapeutic treatment that teaches you to recognize and alter thought patterns and behaviours that triggers anxious feelings. The fundamental concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a crucial role in our behaviour. CBT gives a realistic approach to help limit distorted thinking that causes worries.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is short-term and focused on helping patients deal with a very specific problem. It is empirically supported and has been effective in helping patients overcome a wide variety of dysfunctional behaviours. Some of the CBT techniques used by mental health professionals are Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Multimodal Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

3. Non-Medicinal Approach

If you have the willpower to undergo a non-medicinal approach to cure your anxiety disorders, it would be the best panacea. Though CBT is very focused and effective, the professional fee and tests can be expensive. And as for medications, it is not only expensive but can also give unwarranted side-effects.

Your preference to avoid medications and take honest initiatives to rectify your thought process itself is a step towards its cure. Breathing exercises, a disciplined lifestyle, regular mealtime, deep sleep, and fitness activities are some of the non-medicinal approaches to address your GAD issues meaningfully. Even if you undergo CBT and medications, there needs a lot of lifestyle corrections that are non-medical.

So, your treatment should start with non-medications and proceed to CBT if you are not getting the desired results and finally medication only if the earlier two approaches fail.

How to Prevent GAD?

Counselling can provide relief from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions

Sadly, GAD cannot be prevented completely as you cannot predict what can cause you anxiety disorder. However, you can take precautionary steps to reduce the impact or lessen the symptoms whenever you experience anxiety. These steps include:

  • Get help at the earliest as delaying the impact of anxiety can be hard to treat.
  • Consult your physician or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter drugs. The chemical composition of some drugs can shoot your anxiety symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and undergo a fitness regime regularly.
  • Abstain from substance abuse including alcoholism, tobacco, and other deadly drugs.
  • Seek counselling or support after a traumatic or overwhelming experience.
  • Practice a holistic lifestyle that includes yoga, meditation, and the 8 wellness dimensions.


Life is tough, and it’s getting even more challenging with every passing day. That doesn’t mean it is difficult to have a pleasant living. In fact, there are many more conveniences at our fingertips than in earlier times. Job opportunities have grown manifold. Access to several marketplaces is now just a click away. But the competition has also grown fierce than ever. Our attitudes, feelings, and behaviour have taken a dramatic change altogether. Thanks to social media and easy access to the virtual world. Yet it is fun in many ways.

Sadly, it may not be bliss for many who find all these developments to be overwhelming. Their worries and fears have valid reasons, but there is hardly a choice to prevent them. The difficulty to overcome these anxious moments and carrying on with it is a serious matter to ponder. An inclusive society that sustains a pleasant environment with no place for the contributors of GAD is the need of the hour.

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