General Illness Information
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.
- 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.
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.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Absence of other causative factors e.g. hyperthyroidism, caffeine intoxication, addiction to cocaine etc.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Stay active. Physical exertion helps reduce anxiety.
No special diet. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants and alcohol.
- 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.
Anxiety can usually be controlled with medical and or psychological therapy. Overcoming anxiety often results in a richer, more satisfying life.