Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common mental health concerned marked by uncontrollable worry over everyday or unrealistic concerns. There are several therapeutic approaches to help halt GAD in its tracks and live a fulfilling life.
Psychotherapy is an important component of a comprehensive treatment strategy for GAD. Initially, speaking with a psychologist can help in the diagnostic phase to help you differentiate between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety is often situational and has a root cause. For example, you may be concerned about your job security because another round of layoffs is approaching. When anxiety reaches the level of a disorder, your level of anxiety does not match anything going on in your life.
In many cases, GAD can stem from prior experiences. For instance, ongoing, pathological anxiety may be caused by childhood poverty. You may continue to worry excessively about money and having enough money for basic survival, even if you are currently financially secure and have been for many years. Psychotherapy can be useful in pinpointing what experience or series of events may have precipitated GAD.
Medications are useful for many people dealing with GAD, especially when it reaches a point when they are no longer functioning normally. In general, the first-line approach for GAD includes certain antidepressant medications that have been approved for the treatment of anxiety disorders. These are often among the class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Another benefit of using antidepressants in the treatment of GAD is that depression and anxiety disorders often overlap because the symptoms can be similar.
Other medications may be used sparingly in the initial stabilization of GAD, especially if other disorders occur with GAD. For example, panic disorder may frequently occur with GAD. Therefore, occasional use of a benzodiazepine may be helpful and can also be used if insomnia is a major component of GAD. Similarly, sleeping pills may be used for insomnia. Both benzodiazepines and sleeping pills are typically used for a few weeks as mental health professionals are waiting for antidepressants to start working.
Psychotherapy and medication is only part of the overall GAD treatment strategy. You need to find stress reduction techniques that help. If you can recognize any thoughts or behaviors that are indicative of ruminating in worry, you can think of ways to distract yourself or help ease your mind. For example, if you are lying in bed and starting to worry about your finances, play relaxing music or color in an adult coloring book. Although it is not easy to stop worrying, by recognizing that constant worrying is part of the disorder, you can proactively engage in distraction and stress reduction techniques.
In severe cases, GAD can become overwhelming and lead to impairments of daily functioning. Fortunately, there are several ways to help minimize the impact of GAD and help you live a normal life. For more information, talk to an anxiety psychologist like Marcia M. Laviage, Phd.