Generalized Anxiety Disorder
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder is listed among the different categories of panic and anxiety disorders known today, which also include social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, specific phobias, panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. About 3% of adults within the United States are diagnosed with general anxiety disorder each year, this mental illness being more common in women than in men (6.6% compared to 3.6%) and affecting the elderly rather than adults and teens.
The Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety, fear and worries are normal emotions that everyone experiences when facing problems at work, dealing with stressful situations at home or making important decisions. However, the persistence of these feelings for months and the worsening of these emotions shouldn’t be ignored as it can quite possibly be one of the most common generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.
The causes and triggers of this psychiatric condition are not fully known, but there are theories and studies showing an association in between genetics, environmental stress and brain chemistry and this type of anxiety disorder.
According to scientists, people with a family history of GAD are more prone to developing phobias and anxiety disorders, whether the symptoms start manifesting during early childhood or adulthood.
General anxiety disorder is also thought to be triggered by brain chemistry or more specifically by abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain. These substances, called neurotransmitters, are involved in sending messages between nerve cells, so when they are out of balance, the sent information is altered and this affects the mood and mental condition of the patient. The more altered the neurotransmitter levels are, the unhealthier the brain’s reactions can be in anxiety-inducing situations.
Another cause of generalized anxiety disorder is represented by traumatic and stressful events, such as the death of someone loved, the loss of a pet, physical abuse, domestic violence, divorce, dismissal or even changing schools. All these environmental factors can alter one’s mood, leading to depression, negative thoughts and anxiety. Also, the excessive use of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances – including prescription medications – is thought to favor the occurrence of irrational fear and worries.
Ailments like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heart disease as well as hormonal imbalances associated with pregnancy and menopause are associated with anxiety disorders.
Risk Factors for General Anxiety Disorder
Besides the already mentioned causes of this mental illness, there are several factors that increase one’s risks of developing GAD, where makes coping with anxiety becomes difficult:
- Childhood trauma resulting from psychological or physical abuse, witnessing a traumatic event or being constantly exposed to stressful situations plays an important role in the occurrence of anxiety;
- Severe ailments such as cancer or chronic health conditions lasting for several years can also generate excessive worries and fears, favoring the development of general anxiety disorder;
- Gender also seems to influence one’s mood, females being twice as prone as men to experiencing anxiety symptoms, irrational fears and negative thinking and behavior patterns;
- Finally, people with certain types of personality – - are at greater risk of developing generalized anxiety.