Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

generalized anxiety disorder symptoms

Treatment is Available at Alter Mental Health San Diego

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but persistent feelings of dread and worry may be symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with generalized anxiety disorder live in a chronic state of worry and tension, often without provocation, which can severely impact their quality of life. While it is a chronic condition, generalized anxiety disorder symptoms are treatable. Alter Mental Health in San Diego offers intensive mental health programs to treat GAD symptoms and provide individuals with a chance to gain back control of their lives.

Crisis stabilization units like Alter Mental Health in San Diego offer an alternative to hospitalization or institutional inpatient treatment. Our short-term residential programs allow individuals with GAD disorder to receive 24-hour supervision and evidence-based treatment in a comfortable, private setting. Programs are individualized to fit the needs of each person and go beyond treating GAD symptoms by treating the person as a whole.

People are able to take a break from the real world and focus on their mental healing. Mental health treatment at Alter Mental Health begins with a thorough assessment and testing to ensure you have the correct diagnosis. Our priority is patient safety, and we can provide the necessary monitoring, therapy, and medication for stabilizing any type of GAD mental crisis. Patients are able to get the rest and support needed to properly build a solid foundation for long-term mental health treatment.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

What Is GAD?

We all experience periods of anxiety and stress during stressful periods, and events can be challenging. When does excessive worry become a disorder, and what is generalized anxiety disorder? It is a mental and behavioral disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and often irrational worry. Individuals with GAD disorder can feel consumed and overwhelmed by everyday matters such as family, health, death, finances, relationships, work, or school. They may anticipate disaster, expect the worst, or worry more than is necessary about actual events. Sometimes, they may not be consumed by worrying thoughts but instead experience a general sense of anxiety, dread, or that something bad is about to happen. Individuals find it difficult to control their worry and do not know how to stop the worry cycle, even when they realize their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.

Individuals can experience other anxiety or mood disorders simultaneously, such as social anxiety, panic disorders, depression, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. All anxiety disorders have difficulty with uncertainty, and many people with generalized anxiety disorder may try to plan or control situations. Often, they believe worrying prevents bad things from happening, so they view giving up worrying as a risk. GAD can also lead to physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches, and numbness and tingling in the extremities.

GAD symptoms develop gradually and can begin at any age, although the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Individuals will experience frequent anxiety for months or even years, which can range from mild to severe. Some people with GAD can function socially, while others may be severely impacted, avoiding situations that cause anxiety or not taking advantage of opportunities such as travel, promotions, or trying new things. Some individuals may have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety symptoms are severe.

10 GAD Symptoms

Like other mental health disorders, every person will experience GAD symptoms differently. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, but in general, to be diagnosed with GAD, a person must experience excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least six months. They also find it difficult to control worrying.

Most people with generalized anxiety disorder have a combination of physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  1. Excessive worrying: This can include feelings of dread and thinking of the worst-case scenario. These anxious feelings can stem from school, work, social interactions, health, finances, or personal relationships, to name a few.
  2. Difficulty sleeping and restlessness: Constant anxiety and worry can cause people to toss and turn during the night. They can have difficulty falling or staying asleep, also known as insomnia. Not getting a good night’s rest can also make anxiety symptoms worse.
  3. Fatigue: Anxiety can be emotionally exhausting and make getting through the day more difficult. People with GAD may experience fatigue or become easily tired, which can lead to fluctuating moods and even depression.
  4. Difficulty concentrating: Struggling to complete work or school assignments and blanking out may be a symptom of GAD disorder. They may procrastinate, either knowingly or unknowingly. Anxious thoughts can be distracting, or the person may find ways to distract themselves to avoid those feelings.
  5. Irritability and tension: Anxiety can lead to feeling on edge or easily angered. The person may lash out at others and find they lose their patience much easier than in the past. It can also manifest as physical tension, such as tense muscles and various aches and pains.
  6. Increased heart rate and palpitations: Some of the most common GAD symptoms involve the heart. Stressful and anxious situations cause the heart rate to go up or irregular heartbeats, which are frequently experienced during anxiety or panic attacks.
  7. Hot flashes and sweating: With increased heart rate and blood pressure, body temperature can go up, which can trigger hot flashes and sweating.
  8. Trembling and shaking: Generalized anxiety disorder causes the body to experience a fight-or-flight response. The rush of adrenaline experienced can cause a person’s limbs to shake uncontrollably, especially the hands. Although temporary, it is uncomfortable and can cause more fear and anxiety.
  9. Chest pains and shortness of breath: Panic and anxiety attacks can lead to chest pains and shortness of breath, similar to what may be experienced during a heart attack. The person can feel like they cannot get enough oxygen in their lungs and experience a sensation of tightness or pain in their chest, which is known as dyspnea.
  10. The feeling of terror or impending doom: The person can have a feeling that something bad is about to happen and can be overwhelming. These feelings can appear without any worrying thoughts in individuals with GAD disorder.

generalized anxiety disorder

What Causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

The exact cause of GAD is unknown; however, it is likely a combination of several factors that play a role in the development of GAD. Some common factors include brain chemistry, genetics, family background, social influence, and life experiences. Genetics plays a major role in whether or not you develop GAD, like many other mental health conditions. Certain genetic markers make individuals more vulnerable to developing GAD in combination with certain environmental factors.

Severe or long-lasting stress can also change the chemical balance that controls moods, which can lead to developing an anxiety disorder. Certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can be affected by substance use, poor diet, and lack of exercise as well which can contribute to GAD symptoms.

While genetics and brain chemistry contribute to the development of GAD, environmental and social factors can trigger symptoms in someone who is predisposed to the disorder. Experiencing trauma such as the death of a loved one, divorce, mental, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, isolation, and divorce can trigger GAD. Research also suggests that anxiety may be a learned behavior. If a person has a parent or caregiver who demonstrates anxious behavior, they may mirror that same behavior. Societal factors can also play a role. Researchers are finding that the use of social media can impact mental health, resulting in anxiety and depression.

In some cases, GAD symptoms are a result of medicine or substance use, including caffeine. Medical conditions that increase hormones, such as hyperthyroidism and menopause, can make the body response more excitable and cause GAD symptoms. Chronic illness and disease can also trigger GAD, as well as family or environmental stress.

How Common Is GAD Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder. An estimated 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, struggle with GAD in a given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected compared to men. GAD often co-occurs along with major depression as well. It most commonly begins in childhood or adolescence but can begin in adulthood. It is also the most common cause of workplace disability in the United States.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Can GAD Disorder Be Treated?

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can successfully be treated through behavioral therapy, medication management, or a combination of the two. Individuals can also take steps to take care of their mental health through self-care techniques, lifestyle changes, and holistic therapies, such as yoga and acupuncture. GAD is a chronic disorder with symptoms persisting for months, years, or even a lifetime which requires continued treatment and management. Individuals with GAD usually need to take extra precautions in taking care of their overall health through nutrition, exercise, and relaxation techniques to maintain mental health and neurotransmitter balance.

How is General Anxiety Disorder Treated?

There are several treatment options for GAD disorder, mainly through psychotherapy and medications. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatment or combination of treatments works best for each person. “Talk therapy” is a popular form of treatment for GAD which can be performed by a variety of mental health professionals and through different approaches. Some of the most common types of psychotherapy for GAD include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and solution-focused therapy (SFT). Psychotherapy can help individuals discover and resolve the underlying causes of their anxiety and develop the necessary tools, coping skills, and strategies to manage symptoms.

Medications for GAD symptoms work by interacting with brain chemicals called neurotransmitters by either blocking their absorption or enhancing their action. Medications used in the treatment of GAD include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), anxiolytics, and tricyclic antidepressants. Antidepressants and SSRIs like Zoloft and Prozac are usually the first-line choice for medications but can take several weeks to take effect. Anxiolytics, like benzodiazepines, do not treat the underlying causes of anxiety but are effective in treating symptoms and work immediately.

How Crisis Stabilization Works for People Suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Crisis stabilization is immediate, short-term help for individuals who are experiencing mental or emotional distress. Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can become severe enough to cause a mental health crisis that requires intensive, around-the-clock care. Crisis stabilization units will provide 24-hour monitoring, evidence-based treatment, and quick admissions to help people gain back control of their mental health. Individuals can take a break from the real world to properly heal and get on track towards managing their mental health long-term.

What to Look for When Considering Mental Health Treatment Facilities in San Diego

When considering mental health treatment, the number of options and picking the right one can be overwhelming. Effective GAD treatment will use evidence-based mental health therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Treatment options should include medication management as most mental health disorders are best treated using a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Facilities should also include a thorough psychological and physical assessment to ensure they can properly diagnose patients.

GAD affects each person differently, and the best treatment centers will personalize treatment plans to ensure each person’s unique needs are met. Clinicians should also have the necessary degrees and licenses to carry out evidence-based therapies. When researching mental health facilities, it is important they fit your comfort level as well. Some facilities have an institution, hospital-like environment, while others provide more comfortable, serene amenities.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Call Alter Mental Health and Get Help with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Alter Mental Health in San Diego provides evidence-based, holistic treatment for generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Our crisis stabilization unit offers an alternative to inpatient hospitalization for mental health crises in a comfortable, private setting. Patients will be monitored round-the-clock by a team of clinicians who administer medications and provide effective psychotherapy techniques to stabilize GAD disorders. Treatment plans are personalized and will include referrals and resources for long-term mental health treatment options.

If you or someone you love is struggling with generalized anxiety disorder and need immediate help, please call us today 657-218-5095. Our assessment counselors are available to answer any questions or to begin the admissions process.