Anxiety disorders can be difficult to identify. If you’re concerned you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, this page outlines the warning signs, symptoms, and causes of this disorder.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Chronic anxiety, also referred to as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), is characterized by excessive, exaggerated worry about everyday life events. People with symptoms of GAD tend to always expect disaster and appear to be unable to stop worrying about health, money, family, work or school. Generalized anxiety disorder not only affects the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but can lead to physical symptoms as well.
Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- excessive, ongoing worry and tension
- an unrealistic view of problems
- restlessness or a feeling of being edgy
- muscle tension
- muscle aches
- difficulty concentrating
- the need to go to the bathroom frequently
- trouble falling or staying asleep
- being easily startled
- numbness in hands and feet
- difficulty swallowing
- bouts of difficulty breathing
- hot flashes
The worry experienced by those with chronic anxiety is distinguished by its persistence and intensity, which is characteristically out of proportion for the present situation. In contrast to worry arising from normal fear, related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, anxiety is the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.
What Are the Effects of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
The life of someone suffering with generalized anxiety disorder is plagued by a constant state of worry, fear and dread. Eventually, the worry produced by the anxiety disorder so dominates her thinking that it interferes with daily functioning, including work, school, social activities and relationships. Commonly, the person suffering from GAD is incapacitated during episodes and feels completely overwhelmed by her feelings.
Chronic anxiety disorders frequently occurs alongside drug abuse, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or other eating disorders, and can be tightly interwoven with those illnesses. Some women attempt to self-medicate through the use of drugs, alcohol, food, or even self-mutilation.
What are the Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
The exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is not fully known, but a number of factors-including genetics, brain chemistry and environmental stressors-appear to contribute to its development. Some research suggests that family history can play a part in increasing the chances that a person will develop chronic anxiety. This would mean that the tendency to develop generalized anxiety disorder may be passed on from generation to generation within a family.
Generalized anxiety disorder has been associated with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are special chemical messengers that help move information between nerve cells. If the neurotransmitters are out of balance, messages cannot travel through the brain properly. This can alter the way the brain perceives and reacts to certain situations, leading to anxiety.
Traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, chaotic environments, the death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools, may trigger generalized anxiety disorder in predisposed women. Generalized anxiety disorder can also become worse during periods of stress.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a serious condition that requires treatment by an experienced psychiatrist. Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a leader in treating women and adolescent girls for anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and other co-occurring disorders. Learn more about generalized anxiety disorder treatment.