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First Published Friday, 2 January 2009

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive, recurrent, and prolonged anxiety and worrying. People with generalized anxiety disorder typically agonize over everyday concerns, such as job responsibilities, finances, health, or family well-being or even such minor matters as household chores, car repairs, being late for appointments, or personal appearance. The focus of anxiety may shift frequently from one concern to another, and sensations may vary from mild tension and nervousness to feelings of dread.


Generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults (3.1% of adult Americans) each year. Although people with generalized anxiety disorder know that the intensity, duration, and frequency of their anxiety and worry are out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the feared event, they still have difficulty controlling their emotions.


Perpetual anxiety may impair concentration, memory, and decision-making ability, decrease attention span, and lead to a loss of confidence. Normal activities, such as working, socializing with friends, and maintaining intimate relationships, may become difficult or even impossible.


Generalized anxiety disorder may also produce a range of physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, restlessness, sweating, headaches, and nausea. Some generalized anxiety disorder sufferers, not realizing that generalized anxiety disorder is a treatable illness, become accustomed to their condition and assume that it is normal to feel on edge all the time. But the constant anxiety can lead to alcohol or drug abuse. The physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, along with alcohol or drug abuse, are often what finally compel a person to seek treatment.


Despite its more chronic course, generalized anxiety disorder responds better to treatment than does panic disorder. Psychotherapy helps many people, either by itself or in combination with medication. In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, may relieve symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.


The antidepressant medications duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), Paxil, and Effexor are FDA approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, but other serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, tricyclics, benzodiazepines, and BuSpar are also commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder.


Posted in Depression and Anxiety on December 31, 2008



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