Anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)

General Illness Information

Common Name:
ANXIETY (generalized anxiety disorder)

Medical Term: None Specified

Description: Generalized anxiety disorder (G.A.D.) is commonly known as anxiety disorder and is classified as an anxiety state. It comprises of excessive, almost daily anxiety and worry- lasting 6 months or longer. Anxiety can be about variety of activities or events. Other components of anxiety states are panic disorder, obsessive disorder, and post-trauma stress disorder.

Anxiety is a vague uncomfortable feeling of fear, dread, or danger from an unknown cause. It afflicts 5% of the population. Women are twice as likely to be affected by this disorder than men. Often begins in childhood or adolescence but may start at any age.

Causes:

  • Psychological, physiologic and genetic factors play a part in anxiety neurosis.
  • An activation of the body’s defense mechanisms for a fight or flight.
  • Excess adrenaline is discharged from the adrenal glands, and an adrenaline breakdown product (catecholamines) eventually affects various parts of the body, causing anxiety reactions.

Prevention:

Determine what stressful or potentially harmful situation is causing the anxiety. Deal directly with it. Consider lifestyle changes to reduce stress and learn relaxation techniques.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Twitching or trembling, or feeling shaky.
  • Muscle tension; headaches
  • Sleepiness and restlessness.
  • Easy fatigability.
  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations.
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat.
  • Sexual impotence.
  • Dry mouth; swallowing difficulty or hoarseness.
  • Dizziness or faintness.
  • Nausea; diarrhea; weight loss.
  • Feeling that something undesirable or harmful is about to happen.
  • Hot flashes or chills.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Irritability.
  • Nightmares.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Absence of other causative factors e.g. hyperthyroidism, caffeine intoxication, addiction to cocaine etc.

Risk Factors

  • Stress from any source.
  • Family history of neurosis.
  • Fatigue or overwork.
  • Recurrence of situations that have been previously stressful or harmful.
  • A medical illness.
  • Lack of social support.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Some laboratory studies may be done to rule out medical conditions that produce anxiety, such as hyperthyroidism. Laboratory tests are usually normal.
  • Obtain psychotherapy to understand the specific but unconscious threat or source of stress.
  • Learn techniques, including biofeedback and relaxation therapy, to reduce muscle tension.
  • Follow a regular, energetic fitness-routine using aerobic exercise.
  • Additional information available form the National Institute of mental health (NIMH), National Anxiety Awareness Program, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, ND 20892., (800)64-PANIC.

Medications:

  • Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines may be prescribed on a short-term basis. Buspirone is another effective medication. Unlike benzodiazepines, it is less likely to cause physical dependence. However, buspirone may take 2 weeks or more to start working.
  • Antidepressants such as the SSRI’S may be prescribed for panic disorders.
  • Clomipramine or other medications such as the SSRI’S (serum serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • New medications expected as a result of intensive research.

Activity:

Stay active. Physical exertion helps reduce anxiety.

Diet:

No special diet. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants and alcohol.

Possible Complications:

  • Untreated anxiety may lead to neuroses, such as phobias, compulsions or hypochondriasis.
  • A sudden increase in anxiety may lead to panic and violent escape behavior.
  • Dependence on drugs.

Prognosis

Anxiety can usually be controlled with medical and or psychological therapy. Overcoming anxiety often results in a richer, more satisfying life.

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