General anxiety, also referred to by some medical and mental health professionals as generalized anxiety disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder defined and characterized by the presence of overwhelming, irrational, and excessive worry. Unlike specific phobias, where the cause of your concern is linked to a particular object or situation, the anxiety that you experience with general anxiety tends to be a feeling that impacts the majority of your life. The distress that you feel may be less severe than a panic attack, but general anxiety is usually much longer lasting, which can make relaxation and regular life more difficult to manage.

We all suffer from periods of worry and anxiety throughout the course of our lives, but what makes general anxiety disorder different from that common worry is the fact that it is usually prolonged for a period of over six months, and the amount of anxiety we experience is typically out of proportion to the risk or perceived threat. For example, people with GAD may worry about many of the same things that other people do, such as family issues, money problems, or difficulty at work, but they also take these concerns to another level. For example, an individual with general anxiety whose partner is running late getting home from work may immediately think that they had been involved in an accident rather than assuming they were delayed by traffic.

Who is at Risk of General Anxiety?

Some studies have found that like depression, general anxiety disorder can run in families, but no-one has yet been able to discover why some people develop this disorder and others do not. Researchers hope that by learning more about the brain, and fear responses, better treatments may be able to be produced regarding anxiety.

Approximately 3.1% of adults over the age of 18 suffer with general anxiety disorder in the United States. The disorder typically develops gradually, and it can start at any point throughout a person’s life cycle, although the highest risk years are usually considered to be within middle age and childhood.

Symptoms and Signs of General Anxiety

Although people suffering with this disorder are often aware that their anxiety is usually more intense than the situation calls for, they are unable to reduce their concerns. Usually, they will startle easily and have trouble relaxing and concentrating. Physical symptoms that can accompany this particular kind of anxiety include headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, trembling, irritability, nausea, sweating, and light-headedness. When they are only suffering from a mild level of anxiety, people with this disorder may be able to function at a relatively normal level, but severe general anxiety can make it difficult to hold down a job or cope in social situations.

There may be times during which you feel as though your worries are not completely consuming you, but you may find that you still feel anxious for no particular reason. Unlike in cases of PTSD where a particular traumatic event has caused anxious responses to particular stressors, you may feel a general sense that something bad is going to happen to you, or assign catastrophic consequences to simple situations.

In addition to the regular symptoms, children suffering from general anxiety disorder may:

  • Lack confidence
  • Feel overly anxious about fitting in
  • Strive for approval
  • Be extremely concerned with perfection
  • Require a great deal of reassurance regarding their performance

Treatment Options

General anxiety disorder can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Therapeutic methods have been found to be particularly effective in treating various personality and mood disorders, and cognitive behavioral therapy is usually regarded as especially useful in treating GAD. This form of therapy teaches individuals how to alter their way of thinking and behaving so that they will experience less anxiety or worry. Doctors may also prescribe antidepressants as a way of helping to manage the symptoms of general anxiety.

General anxiety can be very difficult to live with, as there is no respite from the anxiety, causing problems with sleeping, appetite, the ability to maintain a job and engage in close relationships. It is important to remember that no-one should try to overcome the stress of anxiety alone, and for those in need of extra assistance, Creative Care is available to help.