Generalised Anxiety: Effects and Treatment

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When anxiety occurs in a person, it causes several emotional and physical changes. In addition to feelings of fear and tension, patients often exhibit physical signs such as an increased heart rate, tremors, sweating, chest pain, severe headache, dry mouth, or rapid breathing.

The physical symptoms of anxiety are the direct result of the body releasing abnormal amounts of adrenaline, which occurs as the result of our preconditioned fight or flight response. Adrenaline causes an increase in certain bodily processes which involves the heart, muscles, and bloodstream.

This fight or flight response has always been a part of human physiology. In prehistoric times, it provided a signal to encourage a person to escape imminent danger from predators of all types. In modern society, this reflex often occurs in stressful situations such as being threatened by aggressive behaviour from someone else.

Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder

For the person suffering from an anxiety disorder, the fight or flight response happens as a result of smaller, more inconsequential or benign events. Anxiety, or feeling fearful, tense, or worried, is not normal when it is out of proportion to the trigger, persists even when the stressful situation is absent, or occurs for no apparent reason.

At times it is difficult to distinguish between a normal bout of anxiety in a person who tends to have an anxious personality and someone who is affected by generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). The key difference is that the person with GAD experiences interruptions in their day-to-day activities due to their bouts of anxiety and the periods of anxiousness last longer. The following symptoms are also common in GAD:

? Restlessness
? Irritability
? Muscle tension
? A frequent “keyed up” feeling
? Easily tired
? Difficulty concentrating
? Lapses in concentration
? Insomnia and difficulty staying asleep

While these symptoms are very similar to someone who fears a specific thing such as spiders or leaving the house, that is considered a phobia, another diagnostic category of anxiety disorders.

GAD has been found to occur in approximately one out of 50 people. Women are more likely to develop the illness then men and it the first signs of onset usually appear when a person reaches their 20s.

Because GAD affects normal functioning in society and everyday life situations, it is important to receive medical help if you have any indications of the symptoms mentioned above for a period of at least six months. A doctor can rule out other possible physical causes, such as an overabundance of caffeine, the side effects of medication, an overactive thyroid gland, illegal drug use, heart conditions, blood sugar levels, and tumours which cause adrenaline to be overproduced in the body. With proper medical and behavioural therapy, the person diagnosed with GAD can begin to lead a more normal life.

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