Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Thinking about an upcoming deadline or preparing for a talk in public may elicit sensations such as muscle tension and increased sweating. It may even increase your pulse rate. Everyone experiences these symptoms of anxiety at some point in their lives. When anxiety symptoms become more frequent and more severe, this may be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by excessive and persistent worrying that is hard to control, causes significant distress or impairment, and occurs most days for a period greater than six months. Many patients with GAD also experience poor sleep, fatigue, and difficulty relaxing. Headaches and pain in the neck, shoulders, and back are also commonly reported. Because individuals with GAD may feel anxious about almost anything, it is referred to as “generalized” anxiety.
The cause of generalized anxiety disorder is not well understood. There are several theories as to its cause, such as a hereditary tendency to develop GAD. Also, experiences in the person’s life, such as traumatic events occurring in childhood, serious illness, and stressful life experiences, may initiate GAD. Healthcare and mental health providers might use a seven-item questionnaire to assess the severity of GAD. This GAD-7 scale helps with diagnosing GAD and monitoring improvements in anxiety with treatments.
There are many different treatment options to improve symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Of those options, cognitive behavior therapy is central to your health plan. A therapist can help to identify potential underlying patterns of anxiety. With a therapist’s guidance, it is possible to learn how to control harmful thoughts and behavior patterns to no longer contribute to physical and emotional symptoms. Finding a therapist familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy is becoming easier with companies like Talk Space and Betterhelp that are application and web-based.
In conjunction with a therapist, there are medications, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and supplements that can be added to your care plan. Mindfulness practices and physical activity can also positively contribute to a reduction in anxiety. It can take a lot of patience to find your way back to a life with less anxiety. Still, a noticeable improvement can often be achieved after a few weeks.
- Carroll CM. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. 2018. Accessed May 14, 2021. http://search.ebscohost.com.scnmlib.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=93871995&site=eds-live
- Munir S, Takov V. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 2021 Mar 2. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 28722900.
Dr. Nichole Shiffler 404 is a naturopathic primary care physician and medical director of Be Well Medical Primary Care. Dr. Shiffler focuses her practice in women's and pediatric medicine. Dr. Shiffler also has an extensive history of treating irregular menstrual cycles, thyroid disease, menopause, acne, PCOS, and diabetes. She utilizes nutrition and herbal medicine to deliver an effective treatment plan to her patients. Dr. Shiffler is available for patient care at Be Well Medical Primary Care. Call (480) 219-9900 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shiffler.